Oncology Central

Understanding sarcomas and other rare tumors: an interview with Robin Jones

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Can you tell us about your career? What led you to working in sarcoma research?

I trained at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals in London and did an intercalated BSc (first class) in medical physics/radiological sciences. My oncology training was at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London. My postgraduate research thesis evaluated a number of putative predictive and prognostic markers in breast cancer patients treated with neoadjuvant systemic therapy with Professors Ian Smith and Mitch Dowsett. In 2010, I took up a faculty post as head of the sarcoma program at the University of Washington/Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. I initiated a number of Phase I and II clinical trials as well as studies evaluating novel immunotherapeutic therapies in sarcomas, particularly synovial and myxoid liposarcoma. In 2015, I became head of the sarcoma program at the Royal Marsden in London.

What would you note as your greatest professional achievement to date? How have you seen the field develop over your career?

Developing a research interest in sarcomas and setting up a sarcoma research program in Seattle have been professionally gratifying. I first became interested in sarcomas as a trainee at the Royal Marsden Hospital and performed some database studies in liposarcoma [1,2]. I also developed an interest in Phase I clinical trials and other treatment modalities in sarcomas [3,4]. At the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center and University of Washington, my colleague Seth Pollack and I performed a number of preclinical and early clinical studies evaluating potential immunotherapeutic targets in sarcomas [5–7]. I also worked with Janet Eary and Eve Rodler on a preoperative trial of the antiangiogenic agent, pazopanib, in localized soft tissue sarcomas. I was an investigator on a number of important Phase III trials in sarcomas, including a trial of trabectedin versus dacarbazine in lipo- and leiomyosarcoma, eribulin versus dacarbazine in lipo- and leiomyosarcomas, and doxorubicin with or without evofosfamide in soft tissue sarcomas [8]. These trials led to the approval of trabectedin and eribulin by the US FDA. I am also the European lead investigator for a Phase III trial of doxorubicin with either a monoclonal antibody to PDGFR-α or placebo, following a promising Phase II trial [9]. I have continued to work on investigator initiated trials and have a number of immunotherapeutic trials due to open. In 2017, I will be the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Education Committee lead for sarcoma. I am a member of the Sarcoma Alliance for Research through Collaboration Concept (SARC) Review Committee as well as a member of the American Joint Commission on Cancer (AJCC) soft tissue sarcoma staging Committee. In my post in Seattle, I led a change in the structure of the clinic, which resulted in an increase in referrals and improved patient satisfaction. I have continued to supervise a number of research students in my new post at the Royal Marsden Hospital and I continue to lecture nationally and internationally on soft tissue and bone sarcomas.

Soft tissue sarcomas is an umbrella term for an array of various rare cancers including liposarcoma. Can you tell our readers more about liposarcoma in particular & why it is considered rare?

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