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Brandy Sikic named associate director of clinical research
at Stanford Cancer Center

By Elizabeth Crown

Branimir I. Sikic, MDBranimir I. Sikic, MD

Branimir (Brandy) I. Sikic, MD, professor of medicine-oncology and of clinical pharmacology, was named associate director of clinical research at the Stanford Cancer Center.

"This is a critical position, as we must demonstrate our firm commitment to clinical and translational research to be regarded as a truly comprehensive cancer center," said Beverly S. Mitchell, MD, director of the Cancer Center.

Dr. Sikic has been on the Stanford University faculty since 1979, and since 1993 has served as the director of the General Clinical Research Center, now the Clinical and Translational Research Unit. He also founded the Cancer Clinical Trials Office and served as its director until 2004.

Dr. Sikic has conducted seminal studies of the basic cell biology of drug respnse and resistance. Resistance to chemotherapy is responsible for treatment failure in over 90 percent of patients with metastatic cancer.

The Sikic laboratory group studies the mechanism of multi-drug resistance coded by the MDR1 gene and its product, P-glycoprotein (P-gp), a trans-membrane "pump" that is responsible for drug efflux (flow outward) and resistance to many cancer chemotherapies. MDR1 is believed to be significant in the clinical response to anticancer therapies, for example, paclitaxel (Taxol), which is widely used to used to treat breast and ovarian cancers and lymphoma.

The lab team also uses microarray technology to profile gene expression of ovarian cancer, acute leukemias, germ cell cancers and brain tumors. With Alejandro Sweet-Cordero, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Stanford School of Medicine, the group screens cancer specimens from patients at dianosis and after chemotherapy to identify gene expression patterns that may further understanding of how cancer develops as well as to determine response to treatment.

In the clinic, Dr. Sikic is investigating the prognostic significance of resistance gene expression in cancers and the pharmacokinetic consequences of MDR modulation, development of new modulators of drug resistance and clinical trials using monoclonal antibodies, small molecule inhibitors and various cancer chemotherapeutic regimens.

He also leads a group of clinical investigators, nurses and research coordinators who are carrying out early -- Phase I and II -- clinical studies of new anticancer therapies. Whenever possible, new molecular markers that reflect whether a drug is hitting its target are incorporated into these trials. This approach makes it possible to finish the studies before any side effects from the drug become evident.

Through the program, patients and referring physicians have access to the newest anticancer treatments either developed at Stanford or supported by the National Cancer Institute and pharmaceutical companies. The team meets weekly to discuss current and pending protocols and to review the cases of all patients in clinical trials.

Posted on 01/23/09

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