Maie St. John, MD, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Surgery at UCLA with a clinical focus in oral and oropharyngeal cancer. Her career goals are: 1) Research - To develop a scientific portfolio in translational applications of the understanding of mechanisms of tumor progression and metastasis in oral cancer: incorporating the results of her laboratory-based research into the development of novel therapies for OSCC;and to mature into an independent scientist who can successfully compete for funding. 2) Clinical - To become an academic leader in oral &oropharyngeal cancer surgery known for patient oriented research. In order to achieve these goals, she will receive mentorship from Steven M. Dubinett, M.D. and Cun-Yu Wang, DDS, PhD, and the mentoring committee comprised of senior faculty members. She will be in a highly protected, stimulating research environment devoted to translational research in oral cancer. She is enrolled in the UCLA K30 Graduate Training Program in Translational Investigation to receive a degree in Clinical Research with an individualized didactic curriculum in translational and patient oriented research. Her research project entails the development of a novel biocompatible modular polymer platform which will improve the outcome for patients with advanced or recurrent Oral and Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinomas (OSCC). The management of these patients poses a considerable challenge to the surgeon and the radiation oncologist. The surgical demand in such a setting is for wider resection or, in some instances when the tumor is fixed to the underlying vital structures, to debulk as much of a large tumor as possible and leave behind the unresectable portions. Unfortunately, local failure in these cases is at least 40% or greater. The ability to decrease mortality, and improve quality of life and survival for these patients has been a longstanding goal. Dr. St. John has developed a polymer wrap that has the following characteristics: is biocompatible;is slowly degradable;and can serve as a platform to deliver immunomodulators and chemotherapeutic agents so as to most effectively kill tumor cells in the proximity of the polymer application. This polymer wrap is designed to be applied intraoperatively to the surgical bed after removing or debulking the tumor, thus allowing for enhanced post-operative radiation treatment, and also functioning as a platform for the delivery of immunomodulators. Besides its clinically relevant features, the modular nature of this polymer platform provides an elegant approach to future investigations, allowing the identification of specific molecular targets. The ultimate validation will be in the context of a prospective trial in patients with unresectable advanced or recurrent OSCC.
OSCC is the sixth most common cancer in the world, and patients with OSCC are at considerable risk of mortality, with more than 300,000 deaths attributable to the disease annually. During the past 30 years, the 3- to 5-year survival rate of patients with advanced OSCC has remained poor (20-30%). This modular polymer platform is a novel treatment strategy that addresses the need for new therapies in this disease. Relevance to Public Health OSCC is the sixth most common cancer in the world, and patients with OSCC are at considerable risk of mortality, with more than 300,000 deaths attributable to the disease annually. During the past 30 years, the 3- to 5-year survival rate of patients with advanced OSCC has remained poor (20-30%). This modular polymer platform is a novel treatment strategy that addresses the need for new therapies in this disease.
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