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Siteman Teams With North Carolina Cancer Centers to Speed Drug Development

May 8, 2014 – Siteman Cancer Center is teaming with two North Carolina cancer centers as part of a national initiative to accelerate the pace of cancer drug development.

The collaboration capitalizes on the scientific and clinical strengths of Siteman, Duke Cancer Institute and the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. A $350,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) will foster the partnership in its first year, with renewals possible for subsequent years.

Together, the three institutions will conduct early-phase cancer clinical trials sponsored by the NCI, which has established the Experimental Therapeutics Clinical Trials Network to help speed drug development. The Siteman-Duke-UNC partnership is one of about 10 single or multi-institution teams funded through network grants.

Currently, more than 90 percent of new cancer therapies don’t get past the first phase. Researches hope to improve this statistic by better selecting patients who are most likely to respond to new drugs based on the biology of their tumors, and better understanding the biological processes underlying the tumors’ behavior.

“We now have the ability to develop tumor-targeting drugs that disrupt the particular pathways that cancers need to grow, and we also now have the scientific knowledge to determine which are the right patients for these new therapies,” said Craig Lockhart, MD, director of Siteman’s Developmental Therapeutics Program and Washington University’s principal investigator for the partnership grant. “The research conducted under this grant has the potential to significantly improve cancer care by accelerating the development of new cancer drugs.”

The Siteman, Duke and UNC cancer centers collectively treat more than 18,000 newly diagnosed cancer patients each year and enroll more than 3,200 patients in early phase clinical trials. Through this partnership and membership in the Experimental Therapeutics Clinical Trials Network, the three institutions will combine their expertise in clinical care; basic science research; genomic and proteomic profiling; and biomarker development.

Their efforts will focus on five goals: 

  • Establishing a robust clinical trials infrastructure, relying on the expertise of each institution in organizing phase 1 studies and developing innovative strategies for new treatments;
  • Managing and enrolling patients using established molecular profiling of tumors and large referral bases to include common and uncommon tumor types;
  • Developing and testing novel biomarkers designed to identify potential predictors of treatment response for a broad spectrum of anti-cancer agents;
  • Rapidly analyzing and extending the results of the partnership’s trials; and
  • Training and fostering the next generation of experts in oncology drug development.

The grant is the latest spotlight on research at Siteman and Washington University aimed at using drugs to target cancer. One recent study found virtually all of the major mutations that drive acute myeloid leukemia. The findings pave the way for developing better treatments for AML based on the genetic profile of a patient’s cancer. (Learn more.) Other research found that breast cancer patients with the HER2 negative subtype might benefit from highly effective and available anti-HER2 drugs even though standard tests don’t indicate they are candidates for the drugs. (Learn more.)

For more information about the Experimental Therapeutics Clinical Trials Network, visit http://ctep.cancer.gov/initiativesPrograms/etctn.htm.