Ted Lawrence, M.D., Ph.D., became director of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center in February 2015. He is also the Max S. Wicha, M.D., Distinguished Professor of Oncology and the chair of the department of Radiation Oncology.

Five Minutes with Ted Lawrence, M.D., Ph.D.

New director of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center

issue 24 | Summer 2015

What are the Cancer Center's strengths?
I began my career at Michigan 28 years ago. In that time we've created an unprecedented environment of collaboration across specialties and disciplines. I don't know of any other place that has a top medical school, school of public health, college of engineering, college of nursing, business school — and the list goes on. The cancer program can capitalize on the great strengths of all these areas.

What are your top priorities?

  • Clinical trials: We do a lot of great clinical research here. However, we'd like to intensify recruitment to further deliver on our commitment to outstanding clinical research.
  • Using data from the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation: The IHPI uses data to evaluate how health care can be improved and to advise policymakers in order to impact change. This can help shape better cancer care and influence reform at the policy level.
  • Building relationships with other providers and systems across the state: The vast majority of cancer care can be done in the community with strong partnerships. We've already started doing that; however, we want to create more of those partnerships to allow more patients in our state to receive the right cancer care in the right place.

What are some exciting areas of cancer research at the Cancer Center?

  • Precision medicine: We have great strength here, using patients' genetic information to diagnose or treat their individual disease, and discovering new targets for cancer therapy and the drugs to go after those targets. But that's only a beginning.
  • Metabolomics: There's a lot of research now in cancer metabolism and how cancers process nutrients differently than normal cells. We're always looking for the differences between cancers and normal tissues, because then we can target treatment more precisely.
  • Immunotherapy: Some newly developed drugs can unleash the immune system against the cancer. While earlier immunotherapy was defeated because the cancer produces substances that make it invisible to the immune system, now there are new drugs and antibodies available that essentially make the cancer visible to the immune system.