AUA 2016: Whitmore lecture—The Business of Science and the Urologic Oncologist: A Personal Journey

San Diego, California ( Dr. Arie Belldegrun, the director of UCLA Institute of Urologic Oncology, presented the 2016 Whitmore lecture. He discussed his own promising academic career. He emphasizes that a promising career for a Urologic Oncologist reaches far beyond operative room. The adventure begins with translating basic science into clinic through collaboration with and creation of pharmaceutical companies. Dr. Belldegrun stresses the importance of great mentors on shaping one’s future career.

Dr. Belldegren did his residency at Brigham and then went to NCI for fellowship where he developed an interest in immunotherapy. He was fascinated with the idea that immune system can be harnessed to fight cancer. The unique experience at NCI shaped his academic career. He subsequently took an academic appointment at UCLA with a focus on immunotherapy research. He discusses that synergy in oncological research and biopharmaceutical entrepreneurship is critical. Dr. Belldegrun started a first company Agensys with his colleagues at UCLA. The group developed antibodies to several targets with various cancers. In 2007 the company was acquired by Astellas for $500 million. Dr. Belldegrun then describes the development of Xtandi. This is an example of “From OR-to-Lab-to-Clinic-And to the World” phenomenon. It involved taking samples of metastatic human prostate cancer and implanting them into mice and investigating molecular determinants of resistance to antiandrogen therapy.

The goal of the gropu was to refine and produce a safer Ketoconazole. This idea led to the creation of Zytiga. The company Cougar Biotechnology was formed. Currently UCLA is to receive > $1.14 Billion in Royalty payments from the sale of Zytiga. Dr. Belldegrun recently formed Kite Pharma. The concept is that the site of origin of cancer is not important. What is important is on the surface of immune system and search for tumor-specific antigens. The company has grown significantly over the past 2 years. Dr. Belldegrun highlights that a SUO Fellowship in Urologic Oncology should imbibe in the trainees the importance of basic science, translational science, population science, and finally the “Business of Science.”

Academia is the fertile ground for scientific breakthroughs. However, Pharma is best positioned to bring products to patients. Currently, the status quo of GU malignancies has been disrupted by the introduction of new and exciting biopharmaceuticals. To stay competitive, our specialty needs to be creative beyond the clinic and OR and needs to engage in innovative science and drug development. We need to understand not only molecular pathways but also pathways for drug approval and the entire process of business of science.


Presented by: Arie Belldegrun, MD

Reported by Mohammed Haseebuddin, MD, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadlephia, PA. for the AUA 2016 Annual Meeting