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10-trial approach accelerates cancer breakthroughs

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There are 30 researchers collaborating across academic and corporate borders to roll out 10 Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) Catalyst clinical trial projects that combine cancer treatments from nine different pharmaceutical companies.

As a past member of the executive management committee for SU2C and chair of the donor-specific SU2C Catalyst steering subcommittees, Raymond N. DuBois, M.D., Ph.D., researcher and dean of the College of Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, has been working on this effort since its inception. The goal is to explore innovative approaches and accelerate cancer breakthroughs getting to patients’ bedsides.

The 10 inaugural clinical trials being launched will address a wide variety of cancers, including breast, lung, melanoma, multiple myeloma, ovarian, pancreatic, hypermutant pediatric cancers, sarcoma and urothelial cancer. The focus of the SU2C Catalyst clinical trials is to promote novel treatments in combinations with other pharmaceutical companies' medicines, devices and therapies, as well as standard-of-care treatments. 

These programs are truly innovative because they match academic and industry partners with significant support to test unique combinations of agents with cancer immunotherapeutics to help improve clinical responses and outcomes. The three companies involved, Merck, Genentech and Bristol-Myers Squibb, are allowing their drugs to be tested and combined with agents from other companies to determine their effectiveness. This will dramatically accelerate the process of getting these effective combinations approved for use in all cancer patients.

It is estimated that the novel way the industry and academic collaboration has been set up reduces the time for SU2C to get clinical trials started by more than 75 percent.

The researchers are most interested in accelerating the progress in those areas that have the most promise and will have the biggest impact on the clinical front.

The competition for funding is extremely high, and individual principal investigators only bring projects forward that are highly innovative and on the verge of a major breakthrough. For example, the lung epigenetics team combines two epigenetic drugs that reshape DNA with an immune-based therapy for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).