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In an effort to accelerate clinical trials of promising cancer immunotherapies, the National Cancer Institute has awarded a five-year, $17 million grant to the Clinical Research Division’s Dr. Mac Cheever to establish a new Cancer Immunotherapy Trials Network.
The national network, based at the Center, aims to coordinate as many as 25 centers around the country to run clinical trials of the most probable cancer immunotherapy treatments in development. Cheever, who directs the Center’s Solid Tumor Research Program and is a professor of medicine at the University of Washington, will work with Dr. Kim Margolin of the Clinical Research Division and UW’s Dr. Nora Disis as co-investigators.
The Center will house CITN’s Central Operations and Statistical Office, which will provide overall leadership and organizational and biostatistical coordination for the network. The affiliated centers will:
- Conduct phase 1 and phase 2 clinical trials
- Run several tumor immunology laboratories to perform standardized immunomonitoring, biomarker and correlative studies related to the clinical trials
- Receive data coordination support from the Cancer Trials Support Unit, a contractor to NCI’s Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program
“A great deal of progress in the last 10 years in tumor immunology has led to a deeper understanding of the complex immune response against tumors and potential therapeutic avenues to utilize the body’s own immune response to fight tumors,” said Dr. William Merritt, program director for NCI’s Clinical Grants and Contracts Branch. “However, single institution studies and immune enhancing drugs used as single agents have not been able to take best advantage of these exciting findings in the pre-clinical and early clinical arena to date.
“The goal of the CITN will be to design, develop and conduct trials not otherwise possible, but with broad input and appeal for the immunotherapy community. Trials will focus on developing ‘off the shelf’ regimens that can be used by multiple investigators in multiple circumstances and thus can serve as the backbone for further immunotherapy agent development.”
Immunotherapies hold promise as an alternative to traditional treatments like chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. The approach teaches the immune system to recognize a cancer cell as a foreign invader (like a virus) and seek out and destroy residual tumor cells, typically with minimal side effects.
[Adapted from iSBTc and NCI news releases]