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Mendelsohn Tenure as Clinical Cancer Research Editor-in-Chief Spans a Decade

Mendelsohn Tenure as Clinical Cancer Research Editor-in-Chief Spans a Decade
M. D. Anderson News Release 12/15/04

In 1995, the new phrase in oncology was “translational research” — a movement to quickly bring therapies based on the fruits of the molecular revolution to cancer patients. To shepherd such research, a new scientific cancer journal called Clinical Cancer Research was born.

John Mendelsohn, M.D., was named “founding” editor of the journal by the publisher, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), which is the world’s largest organization for cancer-related researchers and clinicians.

After 10 years, 135 issues and 4,950 peer-reviewed articles that span more than 40,000 pages, Clinical Cancer Research is the leading translational cancer research journal and has risen to be ranked 11 among 118 journals in the cancer field, according to the Institute for Scientific Information.

Mendelsohn, President of The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, is stepping down from his 10-year post. He is handing the reins to William Hait, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Cancer Center of New Jersey, who has been co-deputy editor of the journal for five years.

Mendelsohn has accomplished much during his tenure, including tightening manuscript review to improve the quality of research articles (less than 30 percent of studies submitted are accepted); attracting research studies from around the world; expanding to a bimonthly schedule; and implementing online manuscript submission, tracking and review.

In the December 15th issue of Clinical Cancer Research, his last as editor, Mendelsohn signs off with an editorial that urges researchers, regulators and government agencies to consider new ways to conduct and assess translational cancer research and speed bench-to-bedside advances. 

For the benefit of cancer patients, “it is time for academic and industrial researchers to take the lead in working to implement … changes in how we do things,” he says.

Among the suggestions Mendelsohn makes are to:

  • Streamline the process for designing clinical trials which now “involves too much time negotiating and protecting interests,” he says. The cascade of reviews and approvals needed for initiating studies of new therapies, and dealing with the log jam of intellectual property claims slows down both pre-clinical studies and clinical trials, Mendelsohn says.
  • Devise clinical trials that will move new therapies seamlessly through Phase I (evaluating toxicity and perhaps efficacy of a new drug for the first time in humans); Phase II (measuring if the therapy has a therapeutic or anti-cancer effect); and Phase III (comparing the effects of the new treatment with standard treatment to determine which approach yields better patient outcomes). This will require new statistical techniques that build on and incorporate prior data at each step, he says.
  • Develop guidelines between the FDA and researchers that allow testing of new therapies in early-stage disease rather than end-stage disease. Mendelsohn also says that new agents should be used earlier in combination with other drugs so as to target more than a single gene or protein abnormality.
  • Reduce the emphasis on animal studies in favor of moving new targeted therapies more quickly into human clinical trials. Because these therapies “act on human cells in ways that are often not predictable in animal studies,” Mendelsohn says that with proper safeguards for toxicity and with thorough studies examining how drugs work and are metabolized in the body, these new agents can move forward faster.
  • Form an agreement between the National Cancer Institute, pharmaceutical companies and payers to fund research aimed at discovering and validating molecular markers of cancer. Such markers may help identify patients most likely to respond to a particular treatment, yet too few entities are currently willing to pay for such research, he says.
  • Find new ways to fund large collaborations between laboratory researchers and clinical investigators who may come from multiple institutions and companies.
  • Agree to collect clinical information and research data in a standardized format which can be shared electronically. For example, uniform electronic medical records could be mined for associations between molecular and diagnostic information with responses to therapy and outcomes. “Each patient can become a source of research data,” Mendelsohn says.
  • Encourage off-label use (use of a drug for purposes other than its original FDA approval) and reimbursement of anti-cancer agents in new situations, if incorporated into clinical trials that will determine efficacy.

Click here for full text of editorial

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center