The Cancer Questions Project, Part 15: Robert “Bob” Gallo

Dr Robert Gallo, a biomedical researcher, is renowned for his role in the discovery of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as the infectious agent responsible for AIDS and in the development of HIV blood tests. He co-founded Profectus BioSciences, Inc., a biotechnology company. Profectus develops and commercializes technologies to reduce the morbidity and mortality caused by human viral diseases. He is also a co-founder and scientific director of Global Virus Network. He is the director and co-founder of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. In November 2011, Dr Gallo was named the first Homer & Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine.

Azra Raza, author of The First Cell: And the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last, oncologist and professor of medicine at Columbia University, and 3QD editor, decided to speak to more than 20 leading cancer investigators and ask each of them the same five questions listed below. She videotaped the interviews and over the next months we will be posting them here one at a time each Monday. Please keep in mind that Azra and the rest of us at 3QD neither endorse nor oppose any of the answers given by the researchers as part of this project. Their views are their own. One can browse all previous interviews here.

1. We were treating acute myeloid leukemia (AML) with 7+3 (7 days of the drug cytosine arabinoside and 3 days of daunomycin) in 1977. We are still doing the same in 2019. What is the best way forward to change it by 2028?

2. There are 3.5 million papers on cancer, 135,000 in 2017 alone. There is a staggering disconnect between great scientific insights and translation to improved therapy. What are we doing wrong?

3. The fact that children respond to the same treatment better than adults seems to suggest that the cancer biology is different and also that the host is different. Since most cancers increase with age, even having good therapy may not matter as the host is decrepit. Solution?

4. You have great knowledge and experience in the field. If you were given limitless resources to plan a cure for cancer, what will you do?

5. Offering patients with advanced stage non-curable cancer, palliative but toxic treatments is a service or disservice in the current therapeutic landscape?