MD Anderson president Dr. Peter Pisters on adapting to the changing field of medicine: 'I feel like an Everest climber at Camp 3'

With both healthcare and medical research evolving at a rapid pace, academic medical centers are faced with the challenge — or opportunity — of leading the charge in deploying new technologies, strategies and research initiatives to keep up.

Peter Pisters, MD, president of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, shared his predictions for the future of medicine and healthcare and discussed what MD Anderson is doing to adapt to that vision during a keynote interview at the Becker's Hospital Review CEO + CFO Roundtable in Chicago on Nov. 13.

For one, the Houston-based center is pursuing groundbreaking cancer treatment research through its Moon Shots program, which "has allowed us to pivot from the historical way that research is conducted in academic organizations, largely as an individual athlete sport, to migrate into team-based science," Dr. Pisters said.

He also predicted a continued priority on artificial intelligence and other data-driven technology. "If AI can be used to stream YouTube videos for cats, I'm fairly certain that same technology can be redeployed to read mammograms," he said, later adding, "I think it's highly likely that pathology and radiology will over time be replaced. I don't mean to suggest that pathologists will be unemployed, but they will really turn into data scientists, algorithm generators — people who will oversee the digital platform for the machines that will be reading the scans."

Overall, Dr. Pisters said, the healthcare ecosystem will certainly see "significant gains" in the coming years. "The state of science today has never been like this; in oncology, the last five years has been like no other five-year period in time. Ten years ago, we had more types of cancer than we had new drugs. Today, we have the exact inverse situation: We have more cancer drugs than we have types of cancers," he said. "We have to be strategic about which compounds we put into clinical trials and in what sequence, and make bets, because the field has changed so much in the last five years."

He added, "I really feel like an Everest climber that's at Camp 3: When the clouds clear, from time to time, we can see the summit, and we're really getting ready to scale the mountain."

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