Center wins $2.2 million for solid-tumor research program

Life Sciences Discovery Fund grant will support phase 1 clinical-trials program to test novel therapies for solid tumors
Dr. Mac Cheever
Dr. Mac Cheever, director of the Center's solid-tumor research program, said that high-level phase 1 trials can speed the development of new therapies—to the benefit of the state’s patients, industry and health care enterprises. Photo by Gordon Todd

The state's Life Sciences Discovery Fund has awarded $2.2 million to establish a formal phase 1 clinical-trials program to test new therapies for solid tumors through a collaborative effort of the Hutchinson Center and the University of Washington. The grant is among the first funded by the state's $350 million tobacco-lawsuit-settlement bonus.

Developing novel therapies targeted to treat solid tumors, in collaboration with local biotechnology and pharmaceutical firms, is the goal of the Hutchinson Center/University of Washington Cancer Consortium phase 1 clinical-trials program. Phase 1 trials are by definition the first testing of cancer therapies in humans. The purpose is to determine whether and how a drug works.

Traditionally, phase 1 studies have been primarily concerned with drug safety. However, with the increased knowledge of the molecular pathways involved in cancer development, an ever-increasing proportion of drugs initially tested in humans prove to be effective, even in the first patients treated.
“Phase 1 trials are critically important, require a high level of unique competencies and, if done correctly, can substantially speed the development of new therapies,” said Dr. Martin (Mac) Cheever, director of the Center's solid-tumor research program. “This is an outcome that can benefit the state’s patients, industry and health care enterprises.”

Initially, the program will use the funding to develop a highly efficient infrastructure for implementing early phase—primarily industry sponsored—cancer clinical trials, and to provide exploratory funds that will allow Consortium researchers to apply their expertise in cancer imaging and biomarkers to cancer drug development.
The program will be led by Dr. John Thompson, as director of the Consortium phase 1 program. Thompson will be responsible for scientific direction and facilitating new industry and other trial sponsorships.

“Standard therapy for cancer is clearly inadequate,” Cheever said. “The best hope is the development of new targeted therapies. Thanks to ever-advancing technologies and expanding basic knowledge of cancer biology—areas of exceptional strength in the Consortium—the opportunities for developing new therapies targeted to cancer cells have never been greater.”

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