The Cancer Questions Project, Part 29: Leonidas Platanias

Leonidas C. Platanias, MD, PhD, is the director of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. He is the Lurie Family Professor of Oncology and Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology and started his research career at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, followed by clinical training in Medicine in New York and Hematology-Oncology at the University of Chicago. Dr. Platanias’s research work focuses on cytokine signaling pathways in malignant cells and the targeting of such pathways for the treatment of leukemias. He has published more than 320 papers in national and international scientific journals. He is the recipient of several grants including R01, U54, T32, and P30 awards from the National Cancer Institute and an I01 Merit Review (VA). His work is recognized by numerous awards, including the Seymour and Vivian Milstein Award for outstanding contributions in cytokine research. A member of various scientific societies, Platanias served as President of the International Cytokine Society and in other national leadership positions. He serves as Associate Editor and/or in the editorial board of several scientific journals and has chaired and/or been a member of several NIH, VA and DOD study sections.

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?