Robert Kratzke, M.D., is known best for research that helped unravel the intricacies of mesothelioma, leading to better therapies and improved treatment options.
Often overlooked is his work done behind the scenes helping to secure national funding that drives the research that makes the headlines, moving the mesothelioma community a little bit closer to finding a cure.
Without research, there won't be any significant progress with mesothelioma. And research costs a lot of money. That's why research funding is so critical to what we are trying to do.
Kratzke's latest accomplishment has been his work in 2012 to secure the first-ever SPORE (Specialized Programs of Research Excellence) Grant for mesothelioma, which will translate into an estimated $2 million annually for the next five years.
SPORE is part of the National Cancer Institute's effort to promote cancer research. Kratzke's SPORE proposal was a collaborative effort between university medical schools at Pennsylvania, Hawaii, New York and Minnesota. Each university has a major mesothelioma research project ready to be launched once the funding stream opens. It will come with a springboard mechanism to access more funds for other pilot programs.
Fast Fact: Kratzke and his laboratory partners are actively involved with a new incentive to develop drugs that target protein vectors for gene therapy.
The grant was a major topic of discussion at the 2012 Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF) annual conference in Washington, D.C. Compared to other cancers, mesothelioma has received very little federal funding in the past.
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During his career as a medical oncologist, Kratzke has focused on both lung cancer and mesothelioma. He has been involved in numerous clinical trials testing the latest treatment options, stressing the importance of multi-modality therapy.
Some of his latest research centers on molecular abnormalities in both lung cancer and mesothelioma. He has focused that work on cell cycle regulator genes and their loss of function in thoracic cancers. He has done considerable work in the area of targeted gene replacement therapy.
Gene therapy involves a virus that is genetically altered to carry and spread a normal gene rather than a mutated one.
Kratzke performed considerable research on determining the efficacy of heated chemotherapy, a treatment often used now on peritoneal mesothelioma patients. The treatment involves the circulation of a hot chemotherapy solution throughout the peritoneal cavity, intended to kill remaining cancer cells after the removal of cancerous tumors.
His laboratory also recently finished a project in developing molecular assays for micrometastatic disease.
Kratzke came to Minnesota in 1999 when he joined the Minneapolis VA Medical Center. In 2004, he became the first holder of the prestigious John Skoglund Chair in Lung Cancer Studies at the University of Minnesota. He previously worked at the National Cancer Institute.
His research has made him a sought-after speaker at various cancer symposiums and conventions. He is on the scientific advisory board for MARF and has made multiple presentations at the annual International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma.
In July 2011, Kratzke co-authored an article about acridine-based chemotherapy agents to suppress the growth of mesothelioma cells; his previous articles focused mainly on lung cancer and have appeared in journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of Thoracic Oncology.
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