Chapter 07: Translational Research in the Department of Molecular Pathology (Now the Department of Translational Molecular Pathology)

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Chapter 07: Translational Research in the Department of Molecular Pathology (Now the Department of Translational Molecular Pathology)

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Dr. Arlinghaus talks about the new Department chair, Ignacio Vestula, who took over when he was asked to step down in 2012.He also discusses the Departments change of name to Translational Molecular Pathology.Dr. Arlinghaus observes that the Department had a translational focus prior to the name change, and he explains how his own work fits the definition of translational research: to conduct research with the goal of having a direct impact on the cancer patient.Dr. Arlinghaus then sketches his model of how a translational study takes shape.The interviewer talks about a model described by Dr. Mien-Chie Hung, and Dr. Arlinghaus comments on that.He notes that he does not work directly with clinicians and that his strategy has always been to focus on CML, learning from journals what he needs to know.

Identifier

ArlinghausR_01_20140321_C07

Publication Date

3-21-2014

Publisher

The Making Cancer History® Voices Oral History Collection, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The Interview Subject's Story - The Researcher; The Researcher; Definitions, Explanations, Translations; On Research and Researchers; The Professional at Work; Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research; MD Anderson Culture

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Disciplines

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Oncology | Oral History

Transcript

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Now when you came on, you --- the department was called --- was originally called Molecular Pathology.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Correct.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

When was the name Translational Molecular Pathology created?

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

:1 The new department chair was appointed in 2012.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay so that was when the new department chair came in.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

¬¬¬ The new department chair changed it to Translational Molecular Pathology.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And I’m sorry, I --- I don’t know who the no --- new chair is.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

His name is Ignacio Vestuba. He was a patholog --- He was a pathologist, full professor at MD Anderson, and he got a job to go somewhere else and somebody didn’t want him to go somewhere else. So they appointed him as chair of this department and he’s been chair and I think he’s doing a reasonably good job. It’s early, but he treats people well. He treats me well.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well I wanted to ask you about the translational piece because I mean that’s certainly an important word here at MD Anderson, you know, the translational research. What can you tell me about how --- what --- your feelings about how your work evolved in the direction of translational research.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Well, as I said to Dr. Vestuba, we’re already translational molecular pathology. So I think, you know, I was working with leukemia docs. Moni was working with breast cancer docs to try to develop new ther --- new diagnostics, new therapies. So I said, we were all redoing it so it fits perfectly well. That’s what I said.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

How do you define that term? And how do you --- how do you see your work fitting into that category?

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

So Molecular Pathology, if you want to be strict, you can say that’s just studying molecular mechanisms with not a --- not a directive to --- towards finding a new diagnostic or a new therapy. Translational molecular pathology would be making these discoveries with the goal of helping the cancer patient. In other words. --- But we always did. I always --- I --- I’ll tell you that the two technical trials running --- that are going to be run or recruited for by Dr. Cortez in Department of Leukemia based on my Jak2 studies in chronic myeloid leukemia. So I’ve played a critical role in those studies because other people publish with me and they have advanced the field more than I could have done alone.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Now were these …

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

And some of those advancements were particularly appropriate for running a --- a --- another trial on female patients that are resistant, not responding well, to Gleevec: Imatinib) and the other TKIs. So that’s one trial.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Now when you have set up your studies, I --- I’m trying to get a sense of how like what --- what a model of a translational study would be. You know somebody sets out to say, “Okay I’m going --- I’m going to embark now on a translational study.” How --- How would you go about setting that up?

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Well I’ll give you my model and we can talk about several. So my model was to understand what goes on in leukemia cell, identify the key factors, Janus kinase 2 and then identify ways to block that key factor so that we can kill leukemia cells and not kill normal cells. That’s essentially what we want to do.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

So it’s ba --- it starts with a hypothesis.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Yes.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And the aim, the purpose.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

That’s right. And that turned out to be successful. There is a new FDA approved drug for Janus kinase 2. So the leukemia doc Cortez is going to combine that with Glivec. We --- We found --- This person that I worked with, found out that if you --- the patients are resistant to Gleevec or Imatinib, but if you combine that with a Jak2 inhibitor, that changes things and allows the combination to be more effective in killing leukemia cells than either inhibitor alone.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Now do you find for your …

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Surprise and don’t understand why the ….

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you off.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

No, that’s okay. So we don’t know why that happens but the --- the reason trials are going to be run is because we found out in cell culture, this lady that I collaborated in Vancouver found this out. And she found out first you combine Jak2 inhibitor with Gleevec-like drugs, the combination is better than any one alone for killing off leukemia cells and not normal cells. She did that, but only because I introduced her to Jak2.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Interesting. Yeah.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

So I’m a co-author on that paper.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Now are your collaborators primarily basic scientists?

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Yes.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay, so you don’t collaborate with clinicians or what’s your relationship?

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

I don’t object to that but …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

It’s not how you work?

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

No, it’s not that. They --- They --- You can’t do --- You can’t do experiments with patients. You have to do it from cells from patients. Right. You can work with cells from patients, but you can’t do experiments on patients. FDA doesn’t like that, right?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, I guess the reason I’m asking the question, I’m thinking of a conversation that I had with Mien-Chie Hung [oral history interview] who was saying, you know, he gets a lot of ideas about cancer problems from talking to clinicians and so --- and that helps feed his research and it seems --- I --- I mean I’m not sure if this is the case, but it seems to me like ….

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

No I think that’s a good strategy. But in --- in --- in …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Just that’s not your strategy?

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

In my case, my focus is much more defined. I’m not working on breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, brain cancer. Many of those cancers, they don’t have a lot in common except they are cancer, but I’m working focused pretty --- on not all leukemias, chronic myeloid leukemia.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay so….

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

So I don’t need --- I hear --- I hear the things about chronic myeloid leukemia by reading the papers and journals and so I don’t have --- I don’t need help from clinicians about what I’m going to do next, because I see it from the literature. Not that I wouldn’t take it from clinicians I just --- they’re --- they’re learning from me. They’re ---

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well I’m not --- I’m not saying there’s a right or a wrong way. I’m trying to understand like what are the different models.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

) No I think his way --- If I were studying all the fields of cancer I would take that same approach that he’s taking.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

I mean I just --- it’s --- the --- it’s interesting.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

It’s a good one. It’s a good approach.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. And it seems --- And it’s interesting because being translational research is so complicated because of the range of issues that it has to encompass and it’s unique goals and so it --- I’ve been interested to --- to talk to people about how they understand how to create a model or an approach to --- to reach those --- those goals which is changing things for patients.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

I think for Mien-Chie Hung [oral history interview] model is a good one if you’re running a department that’s studying cancer in general. But I --- again, I --- I don’t --- I don’t direct the people that I hire as faculty. I hire them because they have expertise on their own. They’re going to generate their --- their ideas and their models to treat their --- to get their grant support to study their version of cancer. So

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

So there’s quite a variety in your --- within this department Ralph Arlinghaus There is

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

9:53 then of people’s approaches to the prob --- the issue of translational research and you go about doing it.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

There is.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Very interesting.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

And I think another reason that I was asked to step aside was because they wanted to recruit a chair where they could get space for a new chair. And if they had a new chair there would be a package for that new chair which would include space, resources whereas an old chair not likely to get that new --- new package.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Right. Sure.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Have to leave and go somewhere else.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, we’re almost out of time for today and this feels like maybe a good place to stop. Is that okay?

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

That’s --- yeah, sure.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Alright. Great. Well thank you for your time today Dr. Arlinghaus.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Alright. I probably talk too much but that’s --- I hope it was informative.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Not at all. Yes. No. Very informative. Very interesting. And I am turning off the recorder at about 2:58.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Okay. Sounds good.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Thank you very much.

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Chapter 07: Translational Research in the Department of Molecular Pathology (Now the Department of Translational Molecular Pathology)

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