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Duke Cancer Institute Teams with UNC, WUSTL to Speed Drug Development

Duke Cancer Institute Teams with UNC, WUSTL to Speed Drug Development
Duke Cancer Institute Teams with UNC, WUSTL to Speed Drug Development


Duke Health News Duke Health News

DURHAM, N.C. – A partnership formed by the Duke Cancer Institute, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University in St. Louis will become part of a national network working to accelerate the pace of cancer drug development.

The new collaborative effort capitalizes on the scientific and clinical strengths of the comprehensive cancer centers at each of the three institutions, working within the National Cancer Institute’s Experimental Therapeutics Clinical Trials Network (ETCTN). A grant of $350,000 will foster the initiative the first year, with renewals possible for five years at similar amounts.

Together, the three institutions will conduct early phase cancer clinical trials sponsored by the NCI, which has established the experimental trials network to help speed the drug development process. More than 90 percent of new therapies don’t get past the first phase.

"We are in an exciting era of cancer therapy, with new and improved anti-cancer agents being developed and tested at a rapid pace,” said Michael Kastan, M.D., Ph.D., executive director of the Duke Cancer Institute.

“This grant supports testing new drugs in early phase clinical trials, which will add to our arsenal in treating cancers of all types,” Kastan said. “These new clinical trials are particularly exciting for North Carolinians. Cancer patients in the Triangle will be the immediate beneficiaries of the grant, jointly awarded to Duke and UNC, in addition to our third partner institution in St. Louis.”

The strategic partnership leverages the scientific and clinical strengths of the three centers, particularly in blood-based malignancies, brain tumors, and virus-associated cancers.

The three institutions collectively manage more than 18,000 new cancer cases each year and have enrolled more than 3,200 new patients into early phase clinical trials. Through this partnership and membership in the ETCTN, the three institutions will combine their expertise in clinical care, basic science research, molecular genomic and proteomic profiling and biomarker development.

Their efforts will focus on five goals:

  • Establish a robust clinical trials infrastructure, relying on the expertise of each institution in organizing phase 1 studies and developing innovative strategies for new treatments.
  • Manage and enroll patients using established molecular profiling and large referral bases to include common and uncommon tumor types.
  • Develop and test novel biomarkers designed to identify potential predictors of treatment benefit for a broad spectrum of anti-cancer agents.
  • Rapidly analyze and extend the results of the partnership’s trials.
  • Train and foster the next generation of experts in oncology drug development.

“By working together in this partnership, we can maximize the exceptional and complementary clinical and scientific strengths that each institution brings individually,” said principal investigator Herbert I. Hurwitz, M.D., professor of medicine at Duke. “We hope that through these efforts, we will be able to bring important new therapies to patients who desperately need them.”

In addition to Hurwitz, principal investigators include E. Claire Dees, M.D., of UNC and A. Craig Lockhart, M.D., at Washington University in St. Louis.


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