Neil Lee Spector, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
Sandra Coates Associate Professor
Associate Professor of Pharmacology & Cancer Biology
Member of the Duke Cancer Institute
Applying the Lessons From Cancer Research to the Diagnosis and Treatment of TBD
Dr. Neil Spector completed a medical oncology-hematology and bone marrow transplant fellowships at Massachusetts General Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, where he remained on the faculty as an attending physician, pursuing his research on the molecular events that promote the switch from a normal to malignant cells. From 1998 through 2006, Dr. Spector directed the Translational Oncology Research Program at GlaxoSmithKline where his innovative bench to bedside strategy is credited with leading to FDA approval of two molecularly targeted therapies, (i) nelarabine, an ara-G prodrug approved for the treatment of pediatric T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia; and (ii) lapatinib, the only small molecule inhibitor of the EGFR and HER2 tyrosine kinases currently approved for the treatment of HER2 overexpressing breast cancer. His application of translational research to the preclinical and clinical development of lapatinib remains an example of how precision oncology can transform treatment of cancer patients, and facilitate the development of targeted cancer therapies. In 2006, Dr. Spector joined the faculty at Duke University School of Medicine where he is currently the Sandra Coates Associate Professor Medicine. His research focuses on elucidating molecular mechanisms of therapeutic resistance to targeted therapies and strategies to prevent and/or overcome resistance, and more recently, the design of targeted strategies to block specific steps in the earliest stages of cancer development. He was selected by his peers as a Komen Research Scholar, a group representing the top 50 breast cancer researchers from around the world. In addition to his research, Dr. Spector continues to see oncology patients and was recently appointed National Director of Precision Oncology for the VA Healthcare System. Dr. Spector also detailed his personal journey with Lyme disease and the life-threatening cardiac complications that ensued in his recent book, Gone In a Heartbeat: A Physician’s Search for True Healing.
Conference Lecture Summary:
There are striking similarities in the pathogenesis of many cancers and Borrelia infection. The insights that have been made in understanding tumorigenesis and cancer progression and metastatic dissemination have led to paradigm shift in drug development, from the historical reliance on cytotoxic chemotherapies to small molecules targeting oncogenic driver mutations and immunotherapies designed to activate antitumor immune responses. The latter targeted therapies have transformed clinical outcomes for many patients with solid tumor and hematological malignancies. In this presentation, I will discuss how the successful lessons learned in cancer biology and targeted/immunotherapy drug development may apply to the way think in terms of new, non-antibiotic therapies for Borrelia and other tick-borne illnesses. I will discuss an ongoing collaborative project in our lab and others to utilize a platform technology that has successfully identified novel small molecule therapies for cancer, metabolic and certain infectious diseases, to identify a new class of molecularly targeted therapies for Borrelia.