PATRICK J. LOEHRER, SR., M.D.
Thymic Cancer Research
Thymic Cancer Research
Indiana University Cancer Center
The Indiana University Cancer Center has considerable expertise in the treatment of thymomas and thymic malignancies. Under the direction of Dr. Patrick J. Loehrer, Sr., M.D., more patients with advanced thymoma are treated at the Indiana University Cancer Center than any other cancer center in the world. While many oncologists will see a thymoma case once or twice in their career, Dr. Loehrer sees between 5-10 patients a month. In addition, Dr. Loehrer fields hundreds of calls and emails annually from physicians and patients worldwide to provide diagnosis, treatment, and consultation services.
Over the last two decades, Dr. Loehrer has been a central figure worldwide in the diagnosis and treatment advances in thymoma. Dr. Loehrer conducted the first prospective trial with combination chemotherapy utilizing cisplatin, doxorubicin, and cyclophosphamide in the early 1980’s which remains the standard of care. In addition, he has been the principal investigator on numerous trials to evaluate other drugs including the recently completed trial with Octreotide. He has authored over 30 papers, abstracts, and book chapters on thymic malignancies and has presented at meetings.
Dr. Loehrer has generated enthusiasm for the study of thymoma at the Indiana University Cancer Center. He focuses on funding collaborative clinical and basic science invesitgations. His goal is to translate scientific findings into treatment solutions for thymoma patients. This research has been funded solely by philanthropic contributions. Indiana University Cancer Center investigators are currently involved in a variety of translational research projects:
A mouse that develops thymoma is currently being studied to determine which genes may develop this tumor.
Dr. Gail Vance and her colleagues recently found a consistent abnormality in the short arm of the 10th chromosome. Further analysis will focus on whether genetic alterations are important to determine the origin or the prognosis of thymic malignancies.
Potential tumor markers that have been identified are now targeted for the development of new treatments.
Dr. Loehrer is now the principal chair of a multi-institutional trial to evaluate a novel regimen of carboplatin and paclitaxel in patients with advanced thymoma. Philanthropic support will be utilitized for both clinical and laboratory examination of study results.
Indiana University is recognized as one of the world's foremost centers for the research and treatment of testicular cancer. Dr. Lawrence Einhorn, an Indiana Univesity Distinguished Professor, pioneered the successful development of a cure for this disease. Both testicular cancer and thymomas share the characteristic of being a rare disease, but potentially very treatable. Because of the very rare nature of thymic cancer, Dr. Loehrer has modeled his clinical research efforts after those of Dr. Einhorn. The goal of this program is to make thymoma another model for a curable cancer.
Philanthropy is vital to continued research for thymoma. The National Cancer Institute - the major source of funding for cancer research in this country - does not recognize research for thymoma and thymic carcinoma as a national funding priority. This is because it is a relatively rare disease compared to lung cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer. Instead, Indiana University Cancer Center investigators rely on the generosity of donors to investigate promising therapies and all new avenues of hope for patients with thymoma.
Future or ongoing projects and the Indiana University Cancer Center include:
Improving the pathologic staging system with more appropriate prognostic markers to identify patients with poor risk or good risk disease;
Cloning the abnormal gene(s) associated with the development of thymoma;
Identifying various molecular markers which are associated with thymomas and thymic carcinomas which will be useful therapeutically and diagnostically;
Continuing to conduct pilot trials with novel agents;
Continuing development of our tissue bank; and,
Identifying novel treatments for some of the paraneoplastic syndromes associated with thymoma including that of pure red cell aplasia and myasthenia gravis.