Innovations in Review 2023


Our multidisciplinary approach to oncological care is transforming treatment for the most challenging cancers. The renowned specialists at Columbia’s Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center and Weill Cornell Medicine’s Meyer Cancer Center are pioneering strategies for early detection and for accelerating the development of personalized therapeutics to achieve the best possible outcomes for cancer patients.

doctor looking through a microscope
doctor looking through a microscope

Treatment for Gastric Cancers Extends Survival

Metastatic gastric cancer patients face a grim prognosis: roughly 20% of them live longer than two years. Dr. Manish Shah, a medical oncologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine, was a lead author and co-primary investigator of the international, multisite GLOW Study evaluating zolbetuximab, a new targeted therapy. Delivered in combination with capecitabine and oxaliplatin, this novel treatment demonstrated a meaningful survival benefit among patients with HER2-negative gastric cancers that overexpress the protein claudin-18 isoform 2. Zolbetuximab is expected to receive FDA approval in early 2024.

An illustration of gastric cancer

Exploring Kinases for Predicting Breast Cancer Treatment Response

Phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) is one of the most mutated proteins in breast and other cancers. NewYork-Presbyterian/ Columbia’s Dr. Neil Vasan has dedicated his career to studying PI3K mutations and their role in predicting response to treatment. In his latest research, Dr. Vasan found that women whose breast cancers harbored double mutations responded better to PI3K inhibitors, a finding that’s now being investigated further in multiple clinical trials. Last year, Dr. Vasan was one of 58 investigators in the country to receive a prestigious New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health’s High-Risk, High- Reward program. This award will help extend his work on the PI3K kinase to all 556 kinase genes in the human genome, in hopes of determining the consequences to cancer cells of turning off kinase enzymes, which has immense potential to transform our understanding of kinases and kinase inhibitors.

Dr. Vasan’s work to characterize PI3K mutations in women with breast cancer should guide the development of better PI3K inhibitors that have less toxicity, a problem that currently limits the dose that can be used in patients.

A Seminal Study Shows Promise for NSCLC Treatment

For decades, the gold standard in treating early-stage lung cancer has been a lobectomy, a surgical practice rooted in the landmark 1995 clinical trial that pitted lobectomy against sublobar procedure. However, a seminal study initiated by NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine thoracic surgeon Dr. Nasser Altorki reexamined lobectomy versus sublobar resection for the treatment of peripheral stage IA non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The trial results showed that sublobar resection was non-inferior or similar to lobectomy for the primary endpoint of diseasefree survival, and also for the secondary endpoint of overall survival. These results have drastically changed how surgeons now approach this patient population.

A Seminal Study Shows Promise for NSCLC Treatment

Treatment Offers New Hope for B-Cell Lymphoma

Confounding physicians for decades is diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that has limited sensitivity to a type of immunotherapy called PD-1 inhibitors. Dr. Jennifer E. Amengual led a team of researchers at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia that discovered that the novel drug YF2 can unlock the sensitivity of DLBCL to PD-1 inhibitors. The synergistic combination therapy is poised to broaden potential treatment options for patients with DLBCL. Based on the success in the preclinical setting, the use of YF2 for treatment of lymphoma will now move to clinical studies in patients with relapsed or refractory lymphoma.

Micrograph of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma

A Breakthrough Radiotherapy Technique for Early-Stage Breast Cancer

In a worldwide first, Dr. John Ng and his colleagues at NewYork‑Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine developed a technique to treat early breast cancers with MRI-guided prone breast radiotherapy. Their study on the first 11 patients receiving this game-changing treatment, termed “precision prone irradiation” (PPI), showed that by delivering the radiation treatment with MRIguided precision and using the prone position, the amount of normal breast tissue receiving radiation while targeting cancer cells will continue to decrease.

A representative surgical cavity target volume seen from an MRI image acquired on-table on the day of the radiation treatment. The MRI scans in both the axial and sagittal planes are shown. The surgical cavity is outlined in red.