Faculty Profile: Matthew Milowsky

Dr. Matthew Milowsky doesn't spend a lot of time sitting down. He rises before dawn to get some exercise and quiet time before his house fills with the happy chaos of his young family.

Matthew Milowsky, MDMilowsky and his wife, Amy, are raising three children under the age of six — and one thirteen-year-old golden retriever. When he's not playing guitar, bicycling with his family or
chasing his children around the playground, Milowsky is an associate professor of medicine, section chief of genitourinary oncology and co-director of the multidisciplinary urologic oncology program at UNC Lineberger. He came to UNC Lineberger in 2011 from New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, moving to Chapel Hill to join what he calls an "amazing team" of researchers and clinicians.

When talking about his work, Dr. Milowsky emphasizes the value of collaboration. He explains, "What I love to do is clinical and translational research. This was a wonderful opportunity to come here to an established genitourinary (GU) oncology program and work with top physicians in medical oncology, urology and radiation oncology and researchers throughout the University to develop the clinical and translational aspect of the program. I stepped into this spot where there were already so many amazing people doing outstanding work."  

Underscoring the unique opportunities for collaboration at UNC Lineberger, Milowsky notes, "I can walk up the street and be at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, one of the best public health schools in the country and work with some of the top molecular epidemiologists. You just can't find that at other places."

One of Dr. Milowsky's goals at UNC Lineberger is to develop multi-center partnerships to share ideas and advance GU cancer research. This type ofcollaboration is particularly important now when genomics has shown that there are some patients whose cancers have genetic alterations that may be targets for new treatments. He explains, "We can't gather that information alone. We need multiple institutions sharing data to find these potential targets as quickly as possible." Milowsky is an integral member of the UNC Lineberger team that is leading the way in developing the multi-center relationships that are necessary to bring this data together. 

Another focus of Dr. Milowsky's work is developing the clinical trials program within the urologic oncology program at UNC Lineberger. Clinical trials are the way that researchers answer questions about the efficacy of a therapy.

Milowsky's goal is to provide a robust clinical trials program for the people of North Carolina for all urological cancers — prostate, bladder, kidney and testicular. This is an ambitious goal that will take time to develop, and he is justifiably proud of what has been accomplished in just the last two years. For example, he was recently awarded an opportunity to develop a drug called palbociclib, a new targeted agent for the treatment of bladder cancer. Together with Pfizer, Inc., Dr. Milowsky and UNC Lineberger will be leading a multi-institution clinical trial of the drug in collaboration with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the University of Michigan.

"UNC is a real culture of collegiality. This place is just genuinely friendly, and the collaboration extends across the cancer center and the university."

Bladder cancer research and advocacy are a passion for Dr. Milowsky. He has been involved in the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) for years, serving in several leadership roles. Milowsky describes BCAN as "a grassroots organization that is quickly becoming one of the major cancer advocacy organizations in the country." He notes that bladder cancer has historically been underfunded and in need of strong advocacy. Milowsky and his UNC Lineberger colleagues devote a tremendous amount of their afterhours time to BCAN.

Dr. Milowsky is energized by the exciting advances he sees on the horizon for bladder cancer research and treatment. He speaks of the work of UNC Lineberger colleague, Dr. William Kim finding that there are different types of bladder cancer much like those found in breast cancer. Says Milowsky, "What better place to investigate this than UNC, which is the place that pioneered that type of research in breast cancer."

Dr. Milowsky is optimistic about the future of bladder cancer treatment. He explains, "The recent publication of the bladder cancer genome atlas shows that close to 70% of bladder cancers are believed to have actionable targets. This means that bladder cancer could be one of the more treatable malignancies." Dr. Milowsky and his colleagues at UNC Lineberger and across the country are working together to find those treatments.