Dec. 1, 2015:

A conversation with George Weiner, MD, director of Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa and the C.E. Block Chair of Cancer Research and professor of internal medicine at the University of Iowa, which is a member of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium. Dr. Weiner has led a statewide collaborative to reduce the burden of cancer in Iowa, served on committees within the National Cancer Institute, and is currently serving a two-year term as president of the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI), which comprises 92 leading cancer research centers in the United States.

Q: How do you think cancer research will change in the next 10 to 20 years?

Rapid changes in cancer research are taking place in multiple dimensions at the same time. We are learning more every day about the incredible complexity of cancer genetics, cell biology, and how cancer interacts with normal tissues in the body including with the immune system. The big challenge is to continue to accelerate progress in our ability to understand cancer, and to use the information we have found to help as many patients as possible. This is requiring a new team approach to cancer research that includes basic cancer biologists, experts in informatics, clinical investigators, clinicians and many others. These teams are necessary to sort through the complexity of cancer and develop new approaches to cancer prevention, early detection and therapy, and to use the resulting new knowledge to select the right clinical approach for each individual patient.

Q: What does translational research look like at Holden and how are you collaborating with other members in the Consortium?

Holden supports translational science in a number of ways. One area we have invested heavily in over the past few years is the infrastructure that allows researchers to link the molecular makeup of a given cancer to clinical outcome of that patient. This allows us to learn from past experiences so we can determine which patients are most likely to respond to given types of cancer therapy. To do this type of research effectively, we provide our research teams with biospecimens that are linked to data on clinical outcome for thousands of individuals. We also invest heavily in our clinical research activities and have seen a significant increase in accrual of patient volunteers to our clinical research trials over the past few years including trials developed by our own research teams. We collaborate with other members of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium at multiple levels, including in the basic research laboratory, clinical trials, and population-based studies. We look forward to opening additional clinical trials as they emerge through the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium.

Q: How is the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium different from other research consortia?

The Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium is unique in a number of ways. First, it includes investigators from the Big Ten Cancer Centers that all have a similar collaborative approach to cancer research. Second, we encourage our new faculty members to discuss their new and innovative research ideas with their colleagues across the consortium. This allows the next generation of cancer researchers to pursue their innovative ideas rapidly and collaboratively. Overall, it is an incredibly exciting time in cancer research and by working together we will be able to accelerate progress faster than ever before.

About the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium: The Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium creates a unique team-research culture to drive science rapidly from ideas to treatment-changing paradigms. Within this innovative environment, today’s research leaders collaborate with and mentor the research leaders of tomorrow with the unified goal of improving the lives of all patients with cancer.

About the Big Ten Conference: The Big Ten Conference is an association of world-class universities whose member institutions share a common mission of research, graduate, professional and undergraduate teaching and public service. Founded in 1896, the Big Ten has sustained a comprehensive set of shared practices and policies that enforce the priority of academics in the lives of students competing in intercollegiate athletics and emphasize the values of integrity, fairness and competitiveness. The broad-based programs of the 14 Big Ten institutions will provide over $200 million in direct financial support to almost 9,500 students for more than 11,000 participation opportunities on 350 teams in 42 different sports. The Big Ten sponsors 28 official conference sports, 14 for men and 14 for women, including the addition of men’s ice hockey and men’s and women’s lacrosse since 2013. For more information, visit