With a little help from Sloan Kettering Institute chair Marie-Josée Kravis and her husband, philanthropist Henry R. Kravis, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) is launching a new program that it says will reshape clinical trials and speed up translation of molecular discoveries into routine clinical practice. Dubbed the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Center for Molecular Oncology (CMO), the new center will support development of individualized cancer therapies and diagnostics. The couple donated $100 million toward its founding.

The CMO, according to MSK, will include around 20 labs and support over 100 MSK faculty and staff. It will also contain two next-generation sequencing (NGS) facilities, one of which will sequence patient samples in real time, while the other focuses on discovering new genetic alterations and therapeutic targets. MSK says new lab space is currently under construction, and it is buying new instrumentation for generating and analyzing large-scale genomic data for the new center. MSK hopes the CMO will not only bring together existing researchers, but recruit new ones as well. 

MSK has big plans for the CMO: Sloan Kettering hopes to use it to analyze over 10,000 patient tumors in its first year alone and ultimately aims to offer molecular analysis for all cancer types for every patient at MSK. The CMO will profile archived tumor specimens and tissues from trials with NGS and other technologies, then correlate the molecular information of each tumor with clinical outcomes to get a better view of how genetic alterations affect tumors and come up with personalized treatments based on this knowledge. One of the CMO's cornerstones, MSK adds, will be “basket studies”, Phase I trials where patients whose tumors test positive for certain mutations regardless of cancer type are offered new therapies. The CMO will also analyze the tumors of exceptional responders, or patients who experience a sustained response to treatment in a trial where nearly all the other participants do not.

“Throughout the course of my involvement at Memorial Sloan Kettering, I have been deeply impressed by the dedication, experience, and competence of the physicians and scientists who are working to unravel the complexities of cancer,” Marie-Josée Kravis, who has also been a member of MSK’s Boards of Overseers and Managers since 2000, said in a statement. “Henry and I are delighted to support this exciting new initiative, which offers such hope to people around the world.”

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