TGen, Karmanos to lead three-year melanoma study
by Kelsey Kaustinen  |  Email the author


PHOENIX, Ariz.—A new cancer study, led by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, is targeting new therapies for BRAF Wild-Type melanoma. Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) and the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA), who jointly announced the study today along with the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), SU2C's scientific partner, will be funding the 6 million national and international study. As SU2C's scientific partner, the AACR has provided expert peer review and grants administration, in addition to scientific oversight to ensure progress is being made. The AACR and MRA will work closely together on this venture.
The study will be funded by the SU2C-MRA Melanoma Dream Team Translational Cancer Research Grant, which will provide a total of $6 million for three years. This project will focus on accelerating the application of new therapies and accelerating the movement of new discoveries to clinic.
"The Stand Up To Cancer-Melanoma Research Alliance grant gives us the remarkable ability to align cutting edge researchers across the globe to join forces to defeat this terrible disease," Dr. Jeffrey Trent, Ph.D., President and Research Director at TGen, said in a press release.
Nearly 70,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma in the United States each year, and this most dangerous form of skin cancer accounts for approximately 8,000 deaths annually. Metastatic melanoma patients currently face a median survival of six to nine months, and a five-year survival rate of only 15 percent to 20 percent. Roughly half of patients with metastatic melanoma have an oncogenic mutation in the tumor's BRAF gene, with the other half being of the BRAF wild type (BRAFwt), with no mutation in the gene. Little progress has been made to identify targets for potential treatment for the latter half.

Trent is one of the SU2C-MRA Dream Team leaders, along with Dr. Patricia LoRusso, D.O., Director of the Eisenberg Center for Experimental Therapeutics at the Karmanos Cancer Institute. Trent is an expert in molecular-based systems biology approaches to cancer and will supervise the genetic and genomic sequencing of patients. The study will involve approximately 50 scientists and 150 patients at more than a dozen institutes. TGen's collaborators in Arizona will include Mayo Clinic and the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, and the Van Andel Research Institute, TGen's Michigan-based affiliate institute, will also contribute.
"We hope to use this unique multi-stage clinical investigation to define new treatments that will produce benefits for metastatic melanoma patients, based on extensive genomic profiling. We have great scientists and clinicians from across the nation who will join forces on this," said LoRusso.  
Several other Dream Team institutes will also be involved, including Scripps Research Institute, Johns Hopkins University, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, Michigan State University, the National Cancer Institute, the University of California Santa Cruz, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Queensland Institute for Medical Research, Vanderbilt University, Scottsdale Healthcare and Mayo Clinic campuses in Minnesota and Florida.  
The scientists will study the utility of personalized target/therapy identification in patients with BRAFwt metastatic melanoma and investigate the efficacy of molecularly guided therapy using a number of FDA-approved and investigational agents, with a goal of a 30- percent improvement in tumor response compared to standard-of-care therapy. BRAFwt and BRAF-mutant cells lines will be profiled and tested for sensitivity to 100 prioritized compounds with the potential for therapeutic utility, and those data will be used to generate models to predict BRAFwt sensitivity to certain drugs. The predictions will be tested on both xenografts and primary tumors, and a clinical trial will determine if a personalized approach can significantly improve clinical outcome.
"Having a Dream Team of physicians and scientists focus on such an important and unmet need for patients who are not able to benefit from the latest breakthrough drugs is a most welcome development," Debra Black, co-founder and chair of the MRA, said in a press release. "MRA's joining with Stand Up to Cancer and AACR to field such a talented and committed team marks an event of great significance that could herald a next wave of discoveries for patients and all those at risk of being diagnosed with this deadly skin cancer."
SOURCE: TGen press release
Code: E12141100

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