Jun 29, 2015

A BILLION dollars buys a lot of research

OHSU Press release:

OHSU sets fundraising record by meeting $1 billion challenge from Nike co-founder and wife

06/25/15  Portland, Ore.
$1 billion will create first large-scale program to overhaul early detection of lethal cancers
Fast-track recruitment of 250-300 scientists set to launch

Oregon Health & Science University today announced it met Nike co-founder Phil Knight and his wife Penny’s $1 billion challenge by raising $500 million in less than two years to earn the Knights’ matching gift and set a fundraising record.

The $1 billion will support the first large-scale program dedicated to early detection of lethal cancers — one of the biggest unmet needs in cancer care today.

“While cancer treatment has evolved to become more precise and less toxic, the tests and tools used for cancer detection have not changed in decades. Without better, earlier detection, and a full understanding of cancer’s origins in the body, the promise of precision cancer medicine cannot be realized,” said Brian Druker, M.D., director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.

Meeting the Knights’ $500 million fundraising challenge marks the largest documented challenge pledge to succeed, according to researchers with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

“Penny and I have total confidence in Brian Druker and the entire OHSU Knight Cancer Institute team to put a stop to a disease that touches each of our lives,” Phil Knight said. “These last 22 months have shown what is possible when people of vision focus on a single goal. We are more convinced than ever that cancer will meet its match at OHSU, and we are proud to play a role in this history in the making.”

With $1 billion in new funding, the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute will begin fast-track recruitment of about 25 of the world’s top researchers. These recruits will, in turn, hire an additional 225 to 275 scientists and physicians, forming a team focused on the detection of cancer, including the early biological changes in the body that signal a lethal cancer is beginning to develop. Catching the disease in these very early stages will unleash the full potential of precision cancer medicine. It will make it possible to detect cancer when it first starts and treat it when it’s most curable, with the fewest side effects and at the lowest cost.

These scientists will be given substantial financial support, so they can focus on discovery instead of spending time securing grants. With this expansion, OHSU will also move forward with construction of two buildings ― a state-of-the-art cancer research facility designed from the ground up to support a new model of combining scientific disciplines to speed progress and new cancer care clinics for expanded clinical trials that will translate the scientific discoveries made by the team into next-generation detection tests, tools and treatments.

“This is a historic milestone for cancer research, for Oregon and for our institution,” said OHSU President Joe Robertson, M.D., M.B.A. “The support we have received to achieve our ambitious goal ― putting an end to cancer as we know it ― has been nothing short of stunning. We are deeply grateful to the state of Oregon for its leadership and investment at the early stages of our campaign as well as to the thousands of individuals, companies and foundations who joined us along the way.”
In the past few weeks, more than $20 million in donations came in to support the campaign, including significant gifts from Cambia Health Foundation; Pat and Stephanie Kilkenny of San Diego, California; Mark Wolfson and Jasper Ridge Partners; Intel Corporation; Wayne D. Kuni and Joan E. Kuni Foundation; the Blumenfeld family of New York City; the Wendt family of Klamath Falls, Oregon; and Consumer Cellular.
  • The largest gift received since the campaign launched in 2013 was from the state of Oregon, which invested $200 million for the needed research and clinical facilities.
  • The largest gift from an individual ―$100 million — came from Columbia Sportswear Chairman Gert Boyle.
  • In all, more than 10,000 donors participated and, of these, more than half were first-time donors to OHSU.
  • Donations were received from every state in the nation and five countries.
“Our work is just beginning,” added L. Keith Todd, president of the OHSU Foundation. “The Knight Cancer Challenge created an unstoppable movement against cancer. We will continue our efforts to ensure OHSU has all the resources it needs to achieve its vision. Our sense of urgency will not recede until we have fully delivered on the promise of stopping this life-threatening disease.”

The Knights made their challenge pledge in September 2013 after being inspired by the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute’s goal to revolutionize how cancer is detected. The challenge pledge follows their $100 million gift to OHSU in 2008 to support Druker’s work, which helped pioneer the field of precision medicine.

Druker conducted the breakthrough research that led to the development of Gleevec® for chronic myeloid leukemia. This once-a-day cancer pill proved it was possible to kill cancer cells without harming healthy cells. Since he first proved this new type of treatment was possible, many other precision treatments have been developed ― making less toxic, tailored cancer treatment a reality for many patients and launching the field of personalized or precision medicine.

“Today too many patients die or have to suffer through debilitating treatments because their disease is caught too late. Too few physicians and scientists are focused on this problem in a meaningful way and we are committed to filling that gap,” Druker said. “We are thankful to everyone who is making this goal a reality.”

About the Knight Cancer Institute

The Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University is a pioneer in the field of personalized cancer medicine. The institute's director, Brian Druker, M.D., helped prove it was possible to shut down cells that enable cancer to grow without harming healthy cells. This breakthrough has made once-fatal forms of the disease manageable and ushered in a new generation of targeted cancer therapies. The OHSU Knight Cancer Institute is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center between Sacramento and Seattle – an honor earned only by the nation's top cancer centers. It offers the latest treatments and technologies as well as hundreds of research studies and clinical trials.

About OHSU

Oregon Health & Science University is a nationally prominent research university and Oregon’s only public academic health center. It serves patients throughout the region with a Level 1 trauma center and nationally recognized Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. OHSU operates dental, medical, nursing and pharmacy schools that rank high both in research funding and in meeting the university’s social mission. OHSU’s Knight Cancer Institute helped pioneer personalized medicine through a discovery that identified how to shut down cells that enable cancer to grow without harming healthy ones. OHSU Brain Institute scientists are nationally recognized for discoveries that have led to a better understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and new treatments for Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and stroke. OHSU’s Casey Eye Institute is a global leader in ophthalmic imaging, and in clinical trials related to eye disease.

Post Text Here
To put a smile on your face see Larry's latest cartoon.
To learn more about clinical trials, take a look at our book.

(c) 2012 Tom Beer and Larry Axmaker

Jun 20, 2015

NCI-MATCH Trials…Something New

In a recent press release, the National Cancer Institute outlined a new cancer clinical trial program, focused on linking targeted cancer drugs to gene abnormalities. MATCH stands for Molecular Analysis for Therapy Choice.

The trial seeks to determine whether targeted therapies for people whose tumors have specific gene mutations will be effective regardless of their cancer type. NCI-MATCH will incorporate more than 20 different study drugs or drug combinations, each targeting a specific gene mutation, in order to match each patient in the trial with a therapy that targets a molecular abnormality in their tumor.
NCI-MATCH is a phase II trial with numerous small substudies (arms) for each treatment being investigated. It will open with approximately 10 substudies, moving to 20 or more within months. 

The NCI-MATCH trial has two enrollment steps. Each patient will initially enroll for screening in which samples of their tumor will be removed (biopsied). The samples will undergo DNA sequencing to detect genetic abnormalities that may be driving tumor growth and might be targeted by one of a wide range of drugs being studied. If a molecular abnormality is detected for which there is a specific substudy available, to be accepted in NCI-MATCH patients will be further evaluated to determine if they meet the specific eligibility requirements within that arm. Once enrolled, patients will be treated with the targeted drug regimen for as long as their tumor shrinks or remains stable. Overall, trial investigators plan to screen about 3,000 patients during the full course of the NCI-MATCH trial to enroll about 1,000 patients in the various treatment arms.

Adults 18 years of age and older with solid tumors or lymphomas that have advanced following at least one line of standard systemic therapy, or with tumors for which there is no standard treatment, will be eligible. Each arm of the trial will enroll up to 35 patients. The trial’s design calls for at least a quarter of the 1,000-patients enrolled to involve people with rare types of cancer. 

For several years now there has been much discussion of using targeted therapies to treat cancer—this will be the first big study to actually do it.

“NCI-MATCH is a unique, ground-breaking trial,” said Doug Lowy, M.D., NCI acting director. "It is the first study in oncology that incorporates all of the tenets of precision medicine. There are no other cancer clinical trials of this size and scope that truly bring the promise of targeted treatment to patients whose cancers have specific genetic abnormalities. It holds the potential to transform cancer care.”
Since many gene mutations in tumors are infrequent or unique, screening for individual mutations is not cost-effective or efficient in clinical trials. Instead, NCI-MATCH will use advanced gene sequencing techniques to screen for many molecular abnormalities at once. Large numbers of patient tumors will need to be screened because most gene mutations occur in 10 percent or less of cancer patients. Most patients are expected to have one, or at most two, treatable mutations in their tumors. By having multiple treatments available for these genetic abnormalities in a single clinical trial, several different study drugs or drug combinations can be evaluated simultaneously.

The cancer treatment drugs being used in NCI-MATCH include both U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved drugs as well as investigational agents that are being contributed by a number of pharmaceutical companies. Most of the arms in the trial will incorporate single-agent drugs that are either commercially available or are still being tested in clinical trials. However, a few arms will contain combinations of drugs for which there are enough safety data and evidence that they might be active against a particular genetic abnormality.

Screening has not started (starts in July 2015) and there is no specific timeline. Participants will continue to take the trial drugs until their cancer no longer responds to the medications. This approach may be the template for future targeted treatments. Specific drugs for specific gene mutations is a step forward. Watch for results—sometime soon, I hope.

Post Text Here
To put a smile on your face see Larry's latest cartoon.
To learn more about clinical trials, take a look at our book.

(c) 2012 Tom Beer and Larry Axmaker