BAR HARBOR — Jackson Laboratory cancer biologist and immunologist Muneer G. Hasham will give a public Science Café talk about the role of next-generation therapies in cancer treatment March 11 at 5 p.m. at the MDI Biological Laboratory’s Center for Biomedical Innovation building.
Most people are familiar with traditional cancer treatments such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Newer therapies target cancer cells more precisely and thus are often better tolerated by patients and lead to improved outcomes. These include immunotherapy, genetically targeted chemotherapy, oncolytic virus therapy and combination therapy (also called multi-modal therapy).
The new therapies are a contributing factor in a significant increase in cancer survivorship, according to MDIBL. The percentage of cancer survivors living five years or longer after diagnosis was 69.3 in 2009, the most recent year for which there are statistics, according to the National Cancer Institute — up from less than 50 percent in 1975.
These figures put the trend on track to meet a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services target of 71.7 percent by 2020, and bode well for improved health for many of the more than 1.7 million people diagnosed with cancer in the United States each year.
“My hope for the future is that cancer will no longer be a death sentence,” Hasham said. “Rather, a patient will get sick, get treatment and get better. We will always develop cancer as long as cells are replicating and mutating within our bodies. What we need to do is to learn to manage it, just as we have learned to manage asthma, or fever.”
Hasham grew up in Tanzania where he attended an international school, which is the equivalent of a U.S. high school. After attending Bowdoin College on scholarship, he earned a doctorate in microbiology and immunology from Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia.
After graduate school, he returned to Maine to complete his post-doctoral training at The Jackson Laboratory, and later worked as research scientist in the laboratory of Nadia Rosenthal, Ph.D. He is now study director of the patient-derived xenograft program, and has his own cancer research program.
His research interests include immune disorders and cancer pathogenesis and therapeutics.
MDI Science Cafés are offered in fulfillment of the institution’s mission to promote scientific literacy and increase public engagement with science. The popular events offer a chance to hear directly from speakers about trends in science. Short presentations delivered in everyday language are followed by lively, informal discussion.
Visit mdibl.org/events/ or call 288-3147.