Dr. Thomas Odeny joins the Department of Medicine in the Division of Oncology as an Assistant Professor as of September 2022. His career vision in Global Oncology is to address gaps in cancer care by translating research advances to practical and scalable cancer programs in low-resource settings in the U.S. and in Africa through high-quality direct patient care and clinical/translational and implementation research. His clinical research interest is broadly focused on reducing disparities in eligibility for immunotherapy clinical trials and expanding treatment options for cancer in people living with HIV. He is studying the effect of CD4+ T cell count on treatment-emergent adverse events and survival among patients with and without HIV receiving immunotherapy for advanced cancer. This work led to an ASCO Merit Award (2021). As an ASCO Global Oncology Young Investigator Awardee, Dr. Odeny is also studying the association between Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) subtypes and clinical severity of disease in patients with KSHV-associated diseases (KAD) in North America and Africa.
This will be among the first studies to evaluate KSHV subtype and cytokine profiles as predictors of survival in patients with KAD such as Kaposi sarcoma, primary effusion lymphoma, and KSHV-associated multicentric Castleman disease. By integrating patient clinical characteristics with KSHV genomic analyses, this study will provide a platform for understanding diseases that disproportionately affect low-income, stigmatized, and marginalized communities globally, and are therefore understudied to date. He is also interested in leading patient and clinician education initiatives in global oncology with plans to establish a formal program in Global Oncology within the WUSTL Global Health Center in the Institute for Public Health. This will be a platform for training of a new generation of globally-oriented physicians who will advance scientific discovery for underserved populations with cancer globally.
This will be an important step toward sustaining the potential spread of emerging cancer prevention and therapeutic strategies globally and make a lasting impact. Prior to pivoting to a career in Global Oncology, Dr. Odeny was in-country PI or co-investigator for multiple NIH-funded trials, including 3 NIH R01s. These trials studied the application implementation science to promote engagement in the HIV care cascade, and the use of technological innovations to support HIV prevention and treatment efforts. There is a growing recognition that urgent research is needed to find optimal approaches for the translation of efficacious clinical interventions into effective and appropriately scaled programs in the global response to cancer and HIV. As such, Dr. Odeny is interested in leveraging his expertise in implementation science to the growing academic field of global oncology.