July 7, 2011
Dr. Tim Cripe interviewed Dr. Robert Seeger from CHLA (Children`s Hospital of Los Angeles) about his contributions to improvements in treating neuroblastoma as well as his vision for future advances.
Dr. Seeger`s career has been remarkable in that he began with an interest in immunotherapy and neuroblastoma as an intriguing model for this approach, and has consequently been involved in every major advance in treating neuroblastoma, including the pivotal 1984 discovery of the first-ever amplification of an oncogene for any cancer MYCN and the 1985 demonstration that MCYN could be used to predict survival. Authoring over 180 publications, Dr. Seeger has made a significant contribution to every step toward developing better therapies for neuroblastoma, including induction therapy, myeloablative therapy, immunotherapy with anti-GD2 antibody and cytokines, maintenance therapy with retinoids, and most recently, work in tumor microenvironment and developing reproducible biomarkers for detecting minimal residual disease. At the beginning of Dr. Seegers career, survival for high-risk neuroblastoma was abysmal at about 5%, and now survival is about 45%. Dr Seeger has been a leader in the NANT consortium (New Approaches to Neuroblastoma Therapy) and involved in planning the early phase clinical trials conducted by this 15-member consortium.
When questioned about current challenges in his research, Dr. Seeger mentioned the increased regulatory burdens associated with developing new treatments, and also discussed the need for preclinical (mouse) models that are predictive and well-validated. Dr. Seeger believes that improvements can be made in functional imaging, including developing pharmacodynamic markers to detect impact of therapy on tumor.
Dr. Seeger is Professor and Division Head for Basic and Translational Research at Children`s Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases, Children`s Hospital Los Angeles/USC School of Medicine in Los Angeles, CA. His research interests are neuroblastoma risk assessment by gene expression profiling at diagnosis; evaluating response to treatment by quantifying rare neuroblastoma cells in blood and bone marrow; immunotherapy of neuroblastoma (natural killer cells, anti-tumor antibodies, tumor associated macrophages). Dr. Seeger is a reviewer for several high-impact oncology journals, and is a member of the COG NB steering committee. He earned his MD at Oregon Health Sciences University School of Medicine in Portland and completed pediatric internship and residency at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis. Additionally, Dr. Seeger obtained research fellowship training at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the ICRF Tumor Immunology Unit at University College London, UK.
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