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In the driver's seat

Why NCI's new director Douglas Lowy thinks it's all about the drivers in cancer

As precision medicine starts to offer insights to disease at a completely new scale and depth, separating molecular abnormalities that drive cancer from those that don't is becoming an achievable goal, according to the National Cancer Institute's new acting director, Douglas Lowy.

Lowy, whose research formed the basis of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, scores recent advances such as immunotherapy as successes for basic research, and thinks that keeping researchers engaged in basic as well as translational research should be one of the top priorities for the institute.

In addition, he says that public-private partnerships (PPPs) such as the NCI-Molecular Analysis for Therapy Choice (NCI-MATCH) trial are creating new paradigms for asking why some patients respond to certain therapies while others don't, and that he'd like to see NCI work with industry to find ways of overcoming drug resistance. NCI-MATCH is a Phase II trial to determine whether targeted therapies can work in tumors containing the targeted mutation, regardless of the cancer type. On June 1, the study's investigators announced that patient enrollment will begin in July.

Lowy took up his new position at NCI at the beginning of April, and recently sat down with BioCentury to discuss his plans for the institute.

Excerpts from the interview, edited for clarity, follow:

BioCentury: As you take on the role of acting director of NCI, what do you think are the biggest challenges in cancer research?

Douglas Lowy: I think that in cancer

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