Research efforts will investigate DNA-guided personalized cancer treatment approaches.
PHILADELPHIA — Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) and the Dutch Cancer Society (KWF Kankerbestrijding), along with the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), SU2C’s Scientific Partner, announce the recipients of the Sta Op Tegen Kanker International Translational Cancer Research Grant.
Emile E. Voest, M.D., Ph.D., head of the Department of Medical Oncology at the University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht in the Netherlands, and René Bernards, Ph.D., head of the Division of Molecular Carcinogenesis at the Netherlands Cancer Institute, will lead the research project titled “Prospective Use of DNA-guided Personalized Cancer Treatment” on behalf of the Dutch Center for Personalized Cancer Treatment, a collaborative effort of the three largest cancer centers in the Netherlands: the Netherlands Cancer Institute, Erasmus MC and UMC Utrecht.
“We are extremely pleased with the extraordinary outcomes of the first two Sta Op Tegen Kanker telecasts, and look forward to this fall’s show. It is because of the funds generated by the 2010 show that we are able to fund our first international translational research grant,” said Sung Poblete, Ph.D., R.N., Stand Up To Cancer president and chief executive officer. “This collaboration with the Dutch Cancer Society symbolizes a momentous step in the cancer research arena, one that we know will have an impact on clinical cancer care.”
“It is an innovative step for the Dutch Cancer Society to enhance the collaboration of the most talented and promising researchers across institutes globally, by funding international research teams that will solve key challenges in cancer and have a positive impact on patients in the near future,” commented Michel Rudolphie, the Dutch Cancer Society’s managing director.
The goal of this project is to identify new ways in which DNA analysis can be used to guide the selection of the most appropriate personalized cancer treatments for patients. This research team will focus on “proof-of-principle” studies that include patients from three clinical studies: one on breast cancer and two on colorectal tumors.
The Sta Op Tegen Kanker International Translational Cancer Research Grant provides funding of €1.2 million ($1.4 million U.S.) for four years for this translational cancer research project, which addresses critical problems in patient care, including prevention strategies for those at risk, and delivers near-term patient benefit through investigation by a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional, international team of expert investigators.
The grant is supported with money raised in connection with a November 2010 Dutch version of the Stand Up To Cancer televised fundraising event Sta Op Tegen Kanker, which was broadcast in the Netherlands in cooperation with the Dutch Cancer Society.
The proposals for the Sta Op Tegen Kanker International Translational Research Grant project were reviewed by the Dutch Cancer Society Scientific Council in cooperation with the Stand Up To Cancer Scientific Advisory Committee. These Scientific Committees consist of highly accomplished senior laboratory researchers and physician-scientists who are respected internationally for their own accomplishments in cancer research and as leaders in the field.
Each proposal submitted for consideration was reviewed by at least three independent reviewers, experts in the field of the proposal. Based on these reviews, the Dutch Cancer Society’s Scientific Council, in collaboration with Stand Up To Cancer scientific advisors, recommended funding of the team led by Voest and Bernards. The team proposes to develop novel DNA analysis tools to better select cancer patients for specific treatments (i.e., match the right patient to the right drug).
“We urgently need to improve the outcome of clinical trials and be more ambitious for our patients,” Voest said. “We strongly feel that analyzing tumor DNA will not only help us to identify cancer patients that are more likely to respond to a specific anti-cancer drug but also avoid exposing patients to a toxic drug that does not provide benefit. This Stand Up To Cancer grant will allow us to investigate the value of DNA-guided treatment.”
The researchers plan to collect DNA from patients’ tumors both before and two months after the start of defined treatment regimens. They will then correlate the genetic changes in the tumors during that interval with treatment outcome.
Armed with this information, they plan to use state-of-the-art computational biology methods to generate DNA “profiles” that will predict whether patients will respond to a given treatment. By discovering how mutations in tumor DNA are linked to responses to anti-cancer drugs, the team hopes to be able to make far more educated choices for the treatment for individual patients, leading to greater therapeutic benefit, while at the same time reducing the toxicity of noneffective cancer drugs.
“We already have several examples in which the mutation status of the patient is highly predictive for the responses to specific cancer drugs. Through this grant, we will be able to increase our understanding of how the cancer genotype determines how the tumor responds to therapy. As such, we will help expedite the transition to a more individualized treatment for cancer patients,” said Bernards.
The project is estimated to begin Oct. 1, 2012.
The “Prospective Use of DNA-guided Personalized Cancer Treatment” research team consists of a multidisciplinary group of experts. In addition to Voest and Bernards, team members are:
- Stefan Sleijfer, M.D., Ph.D., medical oncologist, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam
- Laura van ’t Veer, Ph.D., molecular biologist, University of California San Francisco School of Medicine
- Trey Ideker, Ph.D., computational scientist, pharmaceutical sciences, University of California San Diego
Prior to today’s announcement, Stand Up To Cancer has awarded grants to seven Dream Teams and 26 Innovative Research Grantees who are young investigators. The recipients comprise more than 330 scientists from 68 institutions.