Cancer is her fight, precision medicine is her weapon

Making the RoundsIn our latest Making the Rounds conversation, we had a chance to chat with Jill Kolesar, PharmD, a professor in the UK College of Pharmacy, co-director of the UK Markey Cancer Center Molecular Tumor Board and director of Markey’s Precision Medicine Clinic.

Dr. Kolesar came to UK HealthCare last year from the University of Wisconsin. Her research is focused on precision medicine, the field of finding new drugs to treat specific cancer mutations. 

Tell us about your precision medicine research.

Precision medicine is a type of treatment that targets a specific genetic mutation in a tumor. Clinical trials have shown that, if you have one of these mutations, not only will the precision medicine work better, but you’ll have fewer side effects. There’s no question that they’re better. Unfortunately, not everyone has a mutation that we have a drug for, but that’s really what we’re working on with our research.

My research is focused on finding new drugs. We look at particular mutations and then use different drugs to target those mutations to determine what the most effective therapy is.

What is the Molecular Tumor Board?

The Molecular Tumor Board brings these precision medicine options to patients and their doctors. The board is made up of doctors, pharmacists and scientists who are experts in genetic sequencing and the treatment of cancer. These people come together to look at each patient’s genetic report and make a treatment recommendation specific to that person.

It’s a real benefit to the patients of Kentucky and their physicians. The treating physician usually knows the patient much better, but the Molecular Tumor Board usually knows the genetics and the new treatments much better. It’s really a partnership between the physician, the patient and the Molecular Tumor Board.

What types of patients benefit most from the Molecular Tumor Board?

The types of patients that are candidates for the Molecular Tumor Board are patients with rare tumors, as well as patients who haven’t responded to standard therapies. And actually, patients with lung cancer can be seen by the tumor board after their initial diagnosis.

Why did you decide to pursue research?

When I was a junior in college, I saw a TV program on PBS about tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (white blood cells) and how they could be taken out of a patient and activated and then given back to make a positive impact.

And so that was the day I decided I was going into cancer research. I’ve never looked back and I’ve always been happy with that decision.

What do you do in spare time?

I like to garden, I like to travel, I like to cook – and I enjoy good food.


Check out our video interview with Dr. Kolesar, where she talks more about the benefits of the Molecular Tumor Board.


Next steps:

  • Watch our TV spot that features the work of our Molecular Tumor Board.
  • Markey is Kentucky’s only NCI-designated cancer center, providing world-class cancer care right here in the Commonwealth. Learn more about why patients choose Markey for their cancer treatment.