Department of Bioengineering Seminar Series
Adam Palmer, Ph.D.
Harvard Medical School
“Rethinking Drug Combinations and the Clinical Consequences of Tumor Heterogeneity”
Monday, February 4, 2019
11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Light refreshments will be served
Developing optimal drug combinations is one of the central challenges of cancer treatment research: drug combinations are used to treat most types of cancer, and are almost exclusively responsible for cures of advanced cancers. Today, most research on combination therapies emphasizes identifying synergistic drug interactions. However, historically successful combination therapies were developed empirically, not rationally, and the mechanistic basis for their efficacy has been largely speculative.
Dr. Palmer will present studies of clinically successful combination therapies that find little evidence of drug synergy but identify the control of between-tumor and within-tumor heterogeneity as critical contributors to the efficacy of drug combinations in human patients. Mathematical descriptions of heterogeneity in cellular or patient populations, and experimental measurements of how drug combinations address heterogeneity, lead to accurate predictions of clinical trial results across many types of cancer and many types of therapies, including curative chemotherapy regimens and recent advances with cancer immunotherapies. These results have broad significance for the treatment cancers, for the interpretation of clinical trials, and point to new opportunities to use combination therapies with greater precision.
Adam Palmer is a postdoctoral fellow with Peter Sorger at Harvard Medical School's Laboratory of Systems Pharmacology. Adam applies experiments and computation to understand and to develop combination cancer therapies, with particular focus on cell-to-cell and patient-to-patient variability in drug response, and the role of combination therapies in overcoming this heterogeneity. Previously, Adam completed his Ph.D in Systems Biology at Harvard University with Roy Kishony, researching mechanisms of drug action and the evolution of antibiotic resistance.