Annual Report 2013: Ending Cancer Together
An innovative approach to treating pancreatic cancer – a discovery detailed last year in Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's annual report – is advancing through clinical trials and continuing to offer hope to patients with few treatment options.
In June, Dr. Sunil Hingorani delivered promising results from a Phase 1b clinical trial at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. He reported that the trial confirmed that an experimental combination of chemotherapy and a special enzyme known as PEGPH20, designed to help deliver chemotherapy into pancreas tumors, could in fact be administered in safe doses. Participants are now being enrolled in a randomized Phase 2 clinical study, which will determine the effectiveness of the combination treatment. With luck, the trial will show that the enzyme and chemotherapy together do effectively fight pancreas cancer.
The novel treatment approach was seeded through a partnership between Hingorani and a California-based foundation that saw the potential in his work. In 2007, the Giles W. and Elise G. Mead Foundation awarded Hingorani a three-year grant to develop a preclinical trials program using the pancreas cancer model he developed. That model, which has become the standard for studying the disease, led Hingorani to discover that pancreas tumors encase themselves in a fibrous tissue that deflects chemotherapy. Encouraged by these results, the foundation has continued to support Dr. Hingorani's research.
"This type of work is not possible unless you have a partner like the Mead Foundation willing to take the big risk with you in return for the possibility of a big gain in terms of impacting human suffering," Hingorani said. "They have really enabled us to try some ideas that we felt very strongly about but were very different from conventional approaches and therefore difficult to get supported through traditional sources."
Calder M. Mackay, president of the Giles W. and Elise G. Mead Foundation, said his organization hasn't limited its funding to any specific lines of inquiry, which has allowed Hingorani's lab to apply it in the most effective and flexible ways possible.
"The directors of the Foundation are very proud to be connected with this work that is advancing against such a deadly cancer," Mackay said.
Dr. Sunil Hingorani's advances in pancreatic cancer research are made possible in part by grants from the Giles W. and Elise G. Mead Foundation, generous gifts from David Jones and Maryanne Tagney-Jones, and the fundraising efforts of Charlene and Greg Steinhauer.