POSTED: September 04, 2015

Dr. Zoran Gatalica: Molecular Profiling + PCa

Prostate Forum recently spoke with Dr. Zoran Gatalica of Caris Life Sciences in Arizona about molecular profiling + prostate cancer. You can read the entire interview in Prostate Forum Volume 15 Number 8.



Prostate Forum asked: Can you talk a bit about your background and how you came to become Medical Director at Caris Life Sciences?

Dr. Gatalica said: I received my training at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia where I did an anatomic and clinical pathology residency. I also have a PhD in Physiology and a Medical Degree from the University of Zagreb in Croatia.

After my training, I spent about 15 years in academic institutions working my way up from attending pathologist to Chief of Service. My career has been laboratory-oriented from my pathology residency to my current position. I have always been interested in disease biomarkers. As the methodologies and technologies changed rapidly over the last 20 years, it became quite obvious that integrating their application into daily practice was going to be difficult in an academic institution. I was looking for an opportunity to advance the speed of discovery from bench to bedside.

That is how I came to Caris Life Sciences. I was attracted by the opportunity to focus my interests on cancer biomarkers and predictive biomarkers for therapy.

Prostate Forum asked: Can you talk a little about the paradigm shift in cancer treatment that molecular profiling represents—i.e. looking at biomarkers as opposed to disease state itself?

Dr. Gatalica said: In the past, pathology simply provided a diagnosis and diagnosis-based treatments. Then we started to refine our process; pathologists began to sub-classify cancers and correlate those cancers with treatment options.

In the last ten to fifteen years, it became quite obvious that this approach was not enough. What we really needed to know was the underlying pathogenic mechanism driving the cancer. We can now identify that underlying pathogenic mechanism using different tests. Some of the underlying pathogenic mechanisms we can identify are DNA-based, RNA-based, and protein-based.

Once we understood that it was important to know which pathogenic mechanism was driving the cancer, the type of tissue and the histologic diagnosis became less important. We are shifting from tissue of origin and histology-based treatments to treatments based specifically on mechanisms (physiologic or pathophysiologic) that drive the growth of that individual cancer.

It is still sometimes thought that these mechanisms are specific to cancer types, but that is not the case. Cancers of very different type and morphology can, in essence, have almost identical pathogenic mechanisms for which we have an existing drug. We’ve had similar results across many different histologic types of cancer.

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