Cultivating and Administering Next-Generation Diagnostics and Treatments
Cancer ranks as the second leading cause of death in the United States, killing nearly as many people as heart disease. To combat this crisis, in July Mount Sinai launched the Center for Personalized Cancer Therapeutics (CPCT), within The Tisch Cancer Institute, where we are receiving the support necessary to elevate cancer therapy to a highly personalized level. Here is a brief overview of how our two labs are working to help cancer patients live longer while enjoying an improved quality of life.
The Mount Sinai Medical Center is continuing its tradition of fostering breakthrough biomedical discoveries by nurturing a new breed of scientists. These scientists, both faculty and students, are exceptional men and women who have committed themselves to furthering medical science through innovation and are driving translational medicine using new tools, models, and approaches.
I am delighted to be part of this vision, which, combined with Mount Sinai’s history of world-class biomedical research, is now drawing students and faculty from quantitative sciences such as engineering and computer science, as well as other non-traditional backgrounds, to join in the process of creating new technologies for the prevention and treatment of human disease. For example, our recent academic affiliation with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, pools our expertise in biomedical research and patient care with Rensselaer’s talent in engineering and computational science. This unique partnership offers tremendous possibilities as it will enhance the infrastructure needed for translationally-focused faculty and students to develop novel biomedical technologies.
At the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, we have taken a bold new approach to our pursuit of breakthrough discovery and innovation by forming an academic affiliation with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Designed to pool our expertise in biomedical research and patient care and Rensselaer’s in engineering and invention prototyping, this affiliation will accelerate collaborations that support educational programs, research, and the development of diagnostic tools and treatments that promote human health.
With technology playing an increasingly important role in the diagnosis and treatment of disease, high competition for research funding, and the pharmaceutical industry investing less in research and development, Mount Sinai and Rensselaer are leveraging complementary strengths to revolutionize biomedical research and accelerate the pace of innovation and entrepreneurship across the health sciences. Read more
A year ago, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) took a giant step toward tackling some of the most difficult questions in science and launched a new era in scientific computing by building and operating “Minerva,” an on-site supercomputer for genomics and other basic sciences. In that short time, Minerva has helped ISMMS scientists analyze major diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s with more precision, and it has also brought the medical world closer to developing more effective drugs and obtaining more accurate pathology results.
Driving Personalized Cancer Therapy
Eric Schadt, PhD, Professor and Chair for Genetics and Genomic Sciences and Director of the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology, and his team rank as Minerva’s biggest users. With their research studies offering novel insights into the evolution and signaling of different cancers, they have discovered a vast diversity in most tumors, a diversity that may continue to increase as the tumors mutate to evade treatment. This information has led them to understand that, although analyzing genetic data is vital to delivering the right treatment for a patient’s cancer, it is not the only piece of the puzzle.
Cancer biology and immunotherapy, the future of psychiatry, the direction of medical education, and the importance of advance directives were among the topics Kenneth L. Davis, MD, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Mount Sinai Medical Center, discussed at an Aspen Ideas Festival preview event held recently at The Studio Museum in Harlem.
The talk, titled “The Future of Medicine,” was a prelude to a larger discussion in which he will participate at the Aspen Ideas Festival in June. Corby Kummer, Senior Editor of The Atlantic magazine interviewed Dr. Davis for 20 minutes before inviting questions from the audience of about 75 invited guests. The event also featured Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum, who was interviewed by the actor and writer Anna Deveare Smith.
Integrating a Patient’s Clinical and Molecular Information for Improved Diagnosis and Treatment
We often hear about the “potential” that biomedical science and technology have to offer “the future of medicine.” At The Mount Sinai Medical Center, some 25,000 patients are living that future and receiving more precise, personalized care—in real time—based on their own DNA.
Each has enrolled in BioMe (TM), our robust biobank which is among the largest such repositories in the United States. It is also unique in that each patient has broadly consented to DNA sequencing, contact from researchers, and longitudinal studies stemming from the electronic medical record (EMR). Mount Sinai has implemented the Epic EMR system throughout its inpatient and outpatient services, the emergency department, pharmacy, and in many affiliate offices across the city.
February is American Heart Month, the time of year when the nation turns its attention to cardiovascular disease and other matters of the heart. While many public service efforts this month focus on educating people about the warning signs and symptoms of heart attack and stroke, as members of the medical community we have a real opportunity to change the course of this disease by encouraging heart-healthy lifestyles well before risk factors develop.
Cardiovascular disease kills 7.3 million people across the globe each year, making it the world’s leading cause of death. In the United States alone, one in every three deaths is from heart disease and stroke, equal to 2,200 deaths per day. At Mount Sinai, our renowned Director of Mount Sinai Heart and Professor of Cardiology, Valentin Fuster, MD, PhD, believes these sobering statistics mandate a new approach to preventing cardiovascular disease that identifies people much earlier in order to promote a healthy heart.
A new Muppet with a heart for health
So what do Muppets, push-ups and pears have to do with it? Many children between the ages of three and six who live in Spain already know. Born in Barcelona, Dr. Fuster is the inspiration for Spain’s newest Muppet, Dr. Valentin Ruster, who has a passion for heart health and appears in the Spanish version of Sesame Street. The only physician in the Muppet cast, Dr. Ruster’s character teaches kids how to make healthy decisions, like choosing fruits and vegetables, and having fun with exercise.
How do we continue to make giant leaps in medicine? What new treatment or approach will allow us to make the greatest gains for patients, in the most effective and efficient ways possible? Where will the next breakthrough come from? These are questions that academics, clinicians, hospital CEOs and medical school deans are constantly asking as we seek to meet the challenges of modern healthcare.
People and technology have a clear role in the answer, but there is another critical factor that is often overlooked: space, and the spontaneity and ideas generated when scientists and clinicians have the ability to work side-by-side.
A great example of this came up during a recent panel discussion at our SINAInnovations conference. Eric M. Genden, MD, and Chief of the Division of Head and Neck Oncology, discussed his experience on a recent case in which a patient had distant metastatic disease that he and his team could not get to surgically. While working on the case, he happened to bump into Ross Cagan, PhD and Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Through their conversation, Dr. Cagan suggested getting a biopsy of the tumor, sequencing it, dropping it into fruit flies, and crossing it with 150 different types of chemotherapeutic agents to see what kills the tumor. Over their chance meeting and a cup of coffee, they mapped out a targeted solution to treat the patient.
Mount Sinai School of Medicine recently unveiled its new supercomputer that is helping researchers unlock the intricate mechanisms that lead to human diseases, and hasten the discovery of treatments for them. The computer, named Minerva, after the Roman goddess of wisdom and medicine, was custom-built by Patricia Kovatch, the school’s first Associate Dean for Scientific Computing.
Minerva provides 64 million hours of computation per year. It has 7,680 processing cores, a peak speed of 70,000 gigaflops, and 30 terabytes of random access memory, making it one of the nation’s highest-performing computers in academic medicine.
“With its tremendous strength and speed, Minerva enables scientists to analyze and manipulate large data sets by running longer, more complex simulations,” says Ms. Kovatch. “This state-of-the-art technology will empower Mount Sinai’s researchers to expand the boundaries of their scholarly inquiry.” The computer’s ability to provide researchers with real-time computation of advanced molecular models and a quick analysis of genomic patterns will help Mount Sinai usher in a new era of personalized and precision medicine. Eric Schadt, PhD, Director of the Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology, and his researchers have been using Minerva extensively in their work.