Christopher Klug, Ph.D. – Co-Leader
Andres Forero, M.D. – Co-Leader
The Experimental Therapeutics Program is the major translational/clinical research engine of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, which integrates basic cancer research, drug development, preclinical studies and implementation of innovative clinic trials. The program is primarily made up of clinical investigators operating in Disease-Oriented Working Groups (DWGs) with a strong and active participation of basic cancer research investigators from the ET Program and from the Cancer Center’s basic science programs.
The main objective of the ET Program is to develop novel therapeutic strategies that will provide cancer patients with an enhanced opportunity for cure and, if not cured, with an enhanced survival time, an increased freedom from disease progression including prolonged clinical benefit rate, and an improvement and relief of cancer-associated symptoms (improved quality of life). The pursuit of this overall objective involves three scientific aims:
- To promote development and implementation of translational clinical trials and research within the UAB CCC involving faculty from different oncology disciplines (basic scientists and clinical faculty) through the 10 different DWGs and the Translational Concepts Meeting. These studies emphasize, but are not limited to, “targeted” treatment strategies and frequently emanate from laboratory and pre-clinical observations of the Cancer Center’s basic science programs and several industry collaborators.
- To promote discovery and utilization of biomarkers that can be used in the diagnosis of cancer, determination of prognosis of different cancers, prediction of therapeutic response and selection of specific patient populations most likely to benefit from various treatment modalities. This goal requires interaction between basic scientists and clinical researchers through the DWGs and the Translational Concepts Meeting.
- To develop novel imaging technology that can be integrated into pre-clinical and translational clinical studies to enhance analysis of therapeutic effects. Scientists working in imaging technology participate in meetings of the DWGs and the Translational Concepts Meeting.
The scientific aims of the UAB CCC ET Program do not represent separate or independent research efforts but rather the ET Program promotes initiatives that integrate biomarkers and imaging development into pre-clinical and clinical research. In order to meet the aims, the DWGs meet monthly and the Translational Concepts Meeting happens twice each month.
Andres Forero, M.D., received his M.D. degree from the Javeriana University in Bogota, Colombia in 1982 and interned at the San Ignacio Hospital (Javeriana University). He completed his residency in Internal Medicine at the Javeriana University in 1987 and a Fellowship in Hematology and Oncology at UAB in 1991 under the direction of Dr. Albert F. LoBuglio. His Hematology and Oncology fellowship included one year of full-time research in the Immunology Research Laboratory of Dr. LoBuglio evaluating antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity induced by monoclonal antibodies, in addition to three years of clinical training. His laboratory experience, combined with his clinical training, taught him the importance of pre-clinical observations in the development of new cancer therapeutic strategies. Dr. Forero returned to Columbia in late 1991 and was appointed to the Division of Clinical Oncology at the Colombian National Cancer Institute in Bogotá where he established a Hematology and Oncology Fellowship Program. In 1993, Dr. Forero was appointed to the Division of Hematology and Oncology at the Javeriana University and provided leadership in the development of the new Cancer Center at the Javeriana University and the first Bone Marrow Transplantation Program in Colombia.
His strong interest in pursuing translational/clinical research, with an emphasis on early trials linked to laboratory observations in breast cancer and lymphomas, resulted in his decision to return to the United States. In September 2000, Dr. Forero was appointed Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology and Oncology at UAB and Director of UAB CCC Clinical Protocol and Data Management (CPDM). He then began the translational research development phase of his career receiving an NCI K12 Individual Mentored Career Development Award. He also completed the UAB Clinical Research Training Program (NIH‑sponsored K30 award). As Director of the CPDM facility, Dr. Forero developed the UAB CCC’s first Data and Safety Monitoring Plan (later approved by the NCI), developed the Protocol Management Teams, and created the Clinical Trials Monitoring Committee. In addition, he organized a CPDM satellite office within the Hematology and Oncology Clinic at The Kirklin Clinic of UAB Hospital and has led the Breast Cancer Working Group. In 2010, he was appointed as Co-Leader of the UAB CCC Experimental Therapeutics Program and in 2012, he was appointed as the Leader of the Breast Cancer Working Group.
Dr. Forero has led a large number of clinical trials (investigator-initiated and industry trials including studies holding FDA-INDs) with emphasis on early pilot, phase I/II studies which included important correlative studies. In 2005, he was awarded an R21 grant (“Radio-immunotherapy: An Anti-Neoplastic Strategy”) from the Division of Cancer Treatment, Diagnosis and Centers. Dr. Forero has played a pivotal role in the development of the UAB Breast SPORE; he has developed two translational projects with the potential of changing standard of care management (“Dual Pathway Target Inhibition in Breast cancer: ER and VEGF” and “Targeting Therapy for Treatment of Triple Negative Breast Cancer”). He led a team of investigators (basic scientists and clinical trialists) that received the Susan G. Komen Promise Grant for the development of an anti-DR5 therapy in patients with triple negative breast cancer ($6.4 million over a five year period ending in 2015). Dr. Forero was a founding member of the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium and is the national Principal Investigator for two of the protocols conducted through the consortium (both studies representing translation of preclinical observations obtained at UAB). He is a member of the I-SPY Breast Cancer Research Group where he is the chaperone for Ganetespib and the biomarker-agent chaperone for the MK2206 arm of the I-SPY 2 trial. In 2011, Dr. Forero was appointed as a Member of the Scientific Program Committee in the Experimental Therapeutics track of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and served for three years.
Dr. Forero has maintained a strong commitment to training the next generation of cancer researchers including Dr. Jatin Shaw, Associate Professor, Department of Lymphoma/Myeloma at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX, who is dedicated to translational/clinical research in multiple myeloma, and Dr. Christos Vaklavas, Assistant Professor, Division of Hematology and Oncology at UAB, who is dedicated to translational/clinical research in breast cancer.
Christopher Klug, Ph.D., was recruited to UAB in 1997 for his expertise in stem cell biology and myeloid leukemia; experience gained during his postdoctoral work in the laboratory of Irving Weissman at Stanford University. He completed his Ph.D. thesis work in the laboratory of Harinder Singh at the University of Chicago, where he uncovered a mechanism for Abelson virus-mediated transformation of B-cell progenitor cells based on the ability of the virus to inactivate the NF-kB signaling pathway. Dr. Klug is Professor of Microbiology, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, and Pathology at UAB. His laboratory continues to focus on the development of animal models of acute myeloid leukemia and, more recently, of pancreatic cancer. Dr. Klug serves as Principal Investigator for one of the major Pancreatic SPORE projects focused on identification of biomarkers representative of early-stage pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma using mass spectrometry and animal models of pancreatic cancer. From 2006 to 2010, he served as a Regular Member of the NIH Hematopoiesis Study Section and from 2008 to 2013, served as a member of the Scientific Committee on Myeloid Biology for the American Society of Hematology. The Dean of the School of Medicine recently appointed Dr. Klug to be responsible for the design and implementation of the signature program in myeloid leukemia within the newly-designated Personalized Medicine Institute at UAB. This Institute is focused on implementation of state-of-the-art genomics tools for the evaluation of adult patients with myeloid malignancies and involves banking samples, deep-sequencing, development of a drug sensitivity platform, and comprehensive analysis of signaling pathways active in leukemic cells. Dr. Klug serves as Principal Investigator for the IRB-approved protocol and has personally consented all patients (~140) that have had their bone marrow banked for this project over the last three years. He has served on a number of UAB steering and oversight committees that impact graduate student recruitment and training, including serving as a member of the parent committee overseeing the Graduate Biomedical Sciences (GBS) program and the committee overseeing the Cancer Biology theme within the GBS. He has served as Ph.D. thesis mentor for 13 graduate students and has participated on the thesis committees of 56 other graduate students. In addition, he served as the K-award mentor of two fellows: C. Scott Swindle, Ph.D., a K01 awardee performing research in hematopoietic stem cell self-renewal; and Charles Landen, M.D., now on faculty at the University of Virginia, a recipient of a K99 career development award whose work focused on the characterization of ovarian cancer stem cells.
- Dr. Forero serves as the Clinical Science Program Leader of the Experimental Therapeutics Program and will promote, facilitate, plan, and oversee translation of preclinical observations from the UAB CCC programs into the clinic according to the objectives and goals of the program and the Cancer Center. This oversight is supported by his leadership of the CPDM facility, his role as Chair of the Clinical Trials Monitoring Committee, and by his membership in the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium, as well as through his direction of the Breast Cancer Working Group.
- Dr. Klug serves as the Basic Science Program Leader of the Experimental Therapeutics Program and will be actively engaged in the development of different areas of basic science research of the UAB CCC. He has served as Co-Leader of the Experimental Therapeutics Program since 2006, and has organized the Program retreats (developing long-term overall goals and objectives for the program), in addition to assisting with active recruitment in critical areas of need (he served as Co-Chair of the Search Committee that recently recruited Ravi and Smita Bhatia from City of Hope to UAB). Dr. Klug runs the monthly Program seminar series and is Chair of the Cancer Center Membership Committee. His leadership activities include involvement with the UAB Pancreatic SPORE, Leukemia Personalized Medicine Program, and graduate training programs focused on cancer, as well as serving as thesis advisor for many Ph.D. students.
- The primary role of the Co-Leaders is the planning and implementation of the strategic vision of this program, which centers on preclinical development leading to the use of novel therapeutic agents in the clinical setting. Implementation of this goal involves monthly meetings with Cancer Center leaders, including the Director, the Associate Director for Clinical Research, leaders of the Alabama Drug Discovery Alliance, leaders of the Disease Working Groups, and leaders of the other Cancer Center research programs. These meetings focus on strategies for facilitating translational research.
- In addition, Drs. Forero and Klug have played a pivotal role in the organization of bi-monthly meetings of the Clinical and Translational Protocol Discussion Group which includes the Cancer Center Shared Facility Directors, and in expediting the institutional review board process, and issues related to intellectual property.
- Further efforts include the organization of a day-long, off-site retreat of the Experimental Therapeutics membership at which each Disease Working Group leader formally presented their group’s most recent scientific work, thus facilitating intellectual cross-fertilization between the various working groups. This retreat has been instrumental in developing and re-evaluating the overall goals and objectives of the program, and solicits input from the entire program membership.
Co-Leader: Christopher Klug, Ph.D.
Phone: (205) 934-1424
Co-Leader: Andres Forero, M.D.
Phone: (205) 934-7167