5 Questions on Research

By Patrick Hwu, M.D. - June 10, 2021

Moffitt Cancer Center’s mission is to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer, and the mission would be impossible if it wasn’t for the cancer center’s research initiative. Thanks to cutting-edge trials and studies, Moffitt is doing its part to reduce the cancer burden in Florida and across the country.

Here are five questions I am commonly asked about Moffitt’s research efforts.

How important is it to have a research arm at a cancer center?
Research is integral to what we do and is very, very important because our mission is to find better ways to prevent and cure cancer. So, we need to help patients two ways. One is to provide cutting-edge care for patients, which a lot of times today is the latest and greatest clinical trials. But we also need to come up with new ways for the patients of tomorrow so we can prevent cancers and treat cancers in a much more effective way and less toxic way.

What about Moffitt’s research sets it apart from others?
Moffitt is an extremely wonderful place for cancer research. We’re great at basic science, but just as important, we are great at bringing science from the lab to the clinic and translating that to patients. We're not just out to write papers, but we are here to help patients ultimately. From our work in the labs we've had many different applications where we've helped patients, such as with CAR T-cell therapy, as well as new ways of preventing cancers, including the further implementation of HPV vaccines, for example.

What is the future of cancer research at Moffitt?
It’s very exciting right now. We're learning a lot about how cancers are turned on and off and developed pills to cut off that circuitry, which is called targeted therapy. We also know a tremendous amount of what turns the immune system on and off, so we're working on trying to stimulate the body's immune system against cancer, which is immunotherapy. Both arms are very effective and it's exciting the death rate from cancer is just now starting to tail off and has decreased two years in a row. This is mainly due to progress in lung cancer and melanoma, but what we're trying to do is further that and decrease the deaths more hopefully to zero one day. I can foresee that with all of the great progress that's happening and at Moffitt we're really working hard on both of those fronts, as well as on many of our prevention strategies to try to prevent and cure cancer.

What should patients know about the research being done behind the scenes at Moffitt?
We have over 7,000 people working at Moffitt and many of them are behind the scenes. There is a uniform passion from each of these people, whether they're in administration or in research or in the clinic, to help patients and to prevent and cure cancer. We have a lot of people in the lab working on making new therapies more effective against cancer and less toxic and also ways to prevent cancer. Patients should know that there's an army of people behind the scenes here trying to make cancer treatments better. 

What would you tell a patient who is hesitant to enroll in a trial?  
The science is so advanced now that often the best therapy for a patient is a clinical trial. On a trial, patients can get drugs that will probably not be approved for a number of years and aren’t available to the general public. Patients can get those most cutting-edge treatments today often on a clinical trial. I have a number of patients who are only alive today because I put them on a clinical trial five to 10 years ago to stimulate their immune system, for example. This shows how important it is for patient care to get patients on clinical trials and it also advances research so that the future generations of patients can have better therapies.

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