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OSU’s ‘drug company’ earns exceptional rating

“We will have a cancer-free world. I think we will have it in my lifetime,” said Dr. Michael Caligiuri, CEO of the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.

Nearly 700 people gathered in the Ohio Union on Friday for the 13th annual scientific meeting for the Ohio State Comprehensive Cancer Center, said Dr. Michael Lairmore, a professor and associate dean for research and graduate studies in the department of veterinary biosciences. The theme of this year’s event was “translation,” and the event was called “Exceptional Cancer Research from Patient to Populations.”

The OSUCCC was awarded an exceptional rating from the National Cancer Institute. Exceptional is the highest rating the NCI can give a cancer center. Caligiuri said at most, only two or three cancer centers receive this rating a year.

The annual meeting for the OSUCCC brings together people from not only OSU, but from around the world to learn about advancements being made in cancer research.

The OSUCCC is made up of 13 of the 18 colleges at OSU. From pharmacy to engineering to business to agriculture, every college involved plays a role in cancer research.

Caligiuri talked about the opportunity to work with all of these departments and create, simply, a drug company.

“We can do inception to the clinic of drugs, we can create the drugs in our minds, build them in our chemistry labs, test them in veterinary medicine and in the college of pharmacy, right into the clinic. Essentially, we have a drug company,” Caligiuri said.

Lairmore said OSU has all the components necessary to create this “drug company.” He said the difference between OSU and the pharmaceutical companies is that research motivates OSU, instead of money.

“If something doesn’t look like it’s going to have a big value, (the pharmaceutical companies) will sometimes quit on a drug. OSU doesn’t do that,” Lairmore said.

Caligiuri said there are three steps being made at the OSUCCC to cure cancer: development, prevention and treatment. Caligiuri said all three are important, but he said if there was a way to know who was going to get cancer, and why, it would be easy to ultimately prevent it all together.

“One of our goals is developing and understanding the risk factors of cancer. Imagine if we knew if someone was going to get colon cancer. We can start giving colonoscopies starting at the age of 20; they would never get cancer. Ohio State actually discovered one of the genes that cause colon cancer. This will be marketed across the United States and this will save 21,000 lives a year.”

Another advancement that is being made in cancer research involves stress management. Caligiuri said Dr. Matt During, a professor in the college of medicine, and his team concluded that there were three levels of stress management, and a “healthy level of stress,” has been shown to help cancer patients.

“Stress relaxation promotes better survival from cancer. If there is modest stress in good social interaction, the results were significantly higher than when exposed to high stress situations,” Caligiuri said. “We are now incorporating stress relaxation to all of our treatment.”

There were studies done on mice and humans about this kind of stress management, and both tests showed better results when exposed to healthy levels of stress.

Caligiuri said the $100 million donation OSU received Wednesday from Leslie Wexner will be significant for OSU’s cancer research.

“Some of the money is going to come to the cancer program of the Ohio State University. We’re going to successfully prevent, cure and create a cancer free world with resources,” Caligiuri said. “I admire their vision. I hope the exceptional rating we received had a tremendous influence on Mr. Wexner’s decision.”

The annual meeting has grown in the past 13 years. Lairmore described it at its roots as a laboratory meeting. Now it has grown to a conference-type event with scientific poster contests, art contests and several guest speakers from around the world.

“We like to challenge our own investigators by showing them the world’s top-notch scientists. We ask our membership to nominate speakers,” Caligiuri said.

Guest speakers included Dr. Polly Newcomb, Dr. James Fagin, Dr. Hugo Rugo and Dr. Larry Maxwell. Caligiuri said OSUCCC insists they have speakers from the areas of prevention, molecular biology and clinical.

Lairmore and his committee of 12 spent nearly a year planning the annual meeting. Lairmore said he was working on a budget of $100,000, and the event was open invitation and free to register for all attendees.

Caligiuri spoke to the audience at the end of the day, celebrating the exceptional rating the OSUCCC had received. He raised a glass of champagne to the crowd toasting to the future of the OSUCCC and “to a cancer-free world.”


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