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Welcome to Season 2!

Breast Cancer Specialist Dr. Mark Moasser Discusses Overcoming Barriers to Clinical Trial Access


Dr. Mark Moasser, a physician-scientist and breast cancer specialist at the University of California, San Francisco discusses his research focus on the HER2 oncogene, the latest trial findings and the importance of improving patient access to clinical trials.


In addition to treating patients, Dr. Mark Moasser conducts laboratory research in his own translational lab, the Moasser lab. One of his long-term focuses has been researching the HER2 oncogene: how it functions and the challenges of targeting it. Research in this area can be life-altering for patients. For instance, at ASCO 2020, Dr. Nancy Lin at the Dana-Farber Cancer Center recently presented findings from the HER2CLIMB trial that demonstrated tucatinib in combination with trastuzumab and capecitabine can improve overall survival in HER2 positive patients with brain metastasis. These are the types of breakthroughs that drive Dr. Moasser every day.


We initially learned of Dr. Moasser and his stellar reputation from one of his cancer patients Laura Holmes Haddad who joined us in Season One of the Precision Medicine Podcast. Laura began seeing Dr. Moasser when she was battling stage IV inflammatory breast cancer at the age of 37. She had already been through three rounds of chemotherapy and was told nothing else could be done, but Laura and her family refused to accept a death sentence.


After some searching, she found Dr. Moasser who helped her get into the clinical trial that saved her life. The trial was a form of precision medicine, and so it treated her in terms of her overall biology rather than merely considering her disease. While the trial was ultimately a failed trial, Laura was a super-responder who is now a published author, speaker, and patient advocate working to influence healthcare policy for greater access to clinical trials and precision medicine.


What Dr. Moasser did for Laura saved her life, and it is why he keeps his fingers on the pulse of—and promotes greater access to—early-phase clinical trials. But with 85% of cancer patients being treated in community hospitals, most of them miss out on the insights, information, and clinical trial opportunities that are normally only available to patients treated in an academic cancer center. We asked Dr. Moasser why that is the case and what can be done about it. He pointed to three key issues:


  • HMOs only allow patients to go to certain hospitals and doctors, so they don't have access to academic hospitals that may know more about trials;


  • There may be information or educational challenges that prevent community doctors from staying on the cutting edge of precision medicine; and


  • Community oncologists may not want to lose patients by referring them out to academic hospitals.


To overcome these barriers, Dr. Moasser actively works to help bring community oncologists under the umbrella of academic institutions as affiliates who may benefit from branding themselves as satellites of a university. He notes that there is more that can be done in terms of education and outreach to get more patients into clinical trials.


At Trapelo, connecting oncologists with patient-appropriate clinical trials is a major part of our mission, so we were grateful for the opportunity to talk to Dr. Moasser and learn more about his thoughts on this matter. Tune in to the full episode to learn more about his current research and perspective on the future of precision medicine.

Download the full transcript of the episode here (pdf).


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About Our Guest
Mark M. Moasser, M.D., Professor of Medicine, Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California, San Francisco

Dr. Moasser is a physician-scientist at the University of California, San Francisco.


He earned his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and his M.D. from Tufts University School of Medicine. He then completed his residency training at The New York Hospital – Cornell Medical Center followed by a Medical Oncology Fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. After serving a few years on the faculty at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, he moved to UCSF where he has been for the past ten years. He is currently Professor of Medicine at UCSF and member of the Breast Oncology Program, co-chair of the Early Phase Investigational Therapeutics Program, and co-chair of the Molecular Tumor Board of the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at UCSF.


Dr. Moasser sees and treats patients with breast cancer and directs a laboratory research program focused on tyrosine kinase signaling in human cancers with a particular interest in the HER and SRC families of oncogenes. He is most interested in understanding the complexities and mechanisms of resistance undermining the first generation of targeted therapies with the intent to lay the foundations for highly effective, targeted therapy of oncogene-driven cancers. His research spans a wide spectrum of activities from basic mechanisms of signaling and biochemistry to preclinical models to early-phase clinical trials. He is an investigator of the National Institutes of Health and a recipient of research awards from Susan Komen for the Cure, The California Breast Cancer Research Program, the American Association for Cancer Research, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and numerous other funding agencies. Dr. Moasser is a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation and frequent reviewer for scientific and clinical journals as well as funding agencies.

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