We focus our attention on areas of cancer research that show promise but would otherwise go unfunded. We provide desperately needed “seed-funding” that allows scientists to explore avenues that are promising but not yet the sure hit winners that venture capital and big bio pharma want to invest in.
This high risk, high reward area of research allows promising work from committed scientists the chance to succeed and develop a “proof of concept”, making it more likely that public and private underwriters will then be more willing to carry that work to the point where it can have an impact in patient outcomes.
Major International Initiative
Thanks to the commitment of our donors, we are able to not only provide critical research funding for our existing programs, but also advance an entirely new research program that could change the tide against the deadliest brain cancer—glioblastoma (GBM).
Unprecedented Global Effort to Defeat Glioblastoma – GBM AGILE
Reason for Hope: click here to learn the Whole Story
NFCR has partnered with other international organizations to launch an unprecedented new clinical trial to defeat glioblastoma, the deadliest form of brain cancer. This project is truly global, with over 150 participants from more than 40 leading cancer institutions across three continents. It implements a new generation of clinical trial – called an “adaptive trial” – which allows patients to be enrolled more quickly, receive treatment with multiple anti-cancer drugs simultaneously, and does not require years of follow-up to determine whether a new experimental treatment is beneficial. This revolutionary “Adaptive, Global, Innovative Learning Environment” offers a more “AGILE” approach to combat this deadly disease. On November 12, 2015, the group announced the formation of this unprecedented international coalition and its plan to enroll patients by mid-2016. With Adaptive Clinical Trials, every patient counts!
New Biomarkers for Early Detection of Ovarian Cancer
Since ovarian cancer usually causes few symptoms before progress to the deadly late stages, it is rarely detected early, earning
the name “the silent killer.” In cases where it is detected early, however, the cure rate is very high – over 92% of women survive
5 years or longer after diagnosis. NFCR scientists are developing new tests that can greatly increase early detection of ovarian cancer, saving patients’ lives. This includes a new immunoassay to evaluate autoantibodies against TP53 mutant proteins. It’s our
hope that a strategy combining this new test with existing biomarkers will greatly increase the specificity of ovarian cancer screening, making life-saving tests available to more women. Robert Bast, M.D., MD Anderson Cancer Center
Capturing Circulating Tumor Cells
NFCR scientists continue to refine the CTC-iChip, the revolutionary blood test that can capture extraordinarily rare circulating tumor cells from a patient’s blood sample – one tumor cell per billion blood cells – expanding its use to patients with breast, lung, and a variety of other cancer types. This test may offer a new tool to rapidly detect and effectively treat invasive cancers in early stages. With further refinements, we hope that this test could one day be used as part of a routine screening for cancer survivors, to detect the return of cancer long before it would otherwise be detected with current procedures. Daniel Haber, M.D., Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital
Improving Surgeries for Breast and Skin Cancer
For many breast and skin cancer patients, surgery is the first and most effective treatment option. Too often, however, patients leave the hospital after surgery, only to learn that further testing revealed traces of cancer in the margins of their tissue. NFCR scientists are developing a new advanced molecular imaging probe, which allows surgeons to see within minutes whether the margins of breast cancer lumpectomies are cancer-free, greatly reducing the need to call patients back for a second surgery. James Basilion, Ph.D., NFCR Center for Molecular Imaging at Case Western University
New Platform for Rapid Drug Screening
Drug resistance is a devastating problem for cancer patients. Although many genetically targeted drugs are effective at first, they almost always stop working as cancers can activate so-called “escape pathways.” A team of NFCRsupported researchers has eveloped a new platform that can rapidly identify effective drug combinations for certain lung cancer patients whose tumors have stopped responding to targeted therapy. Using advanced genetics, this team is designing more effective drug combinations to both attack cancer cells and eliminate potential escape pathways. Alice Shaw, M.D., Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital
Making the Connections in Tumor Genetics
There are many different cancer types, but all are connected through the fundamental building blocks of genetics. NFCRsupported
scientists have made great strides in deepening our understanding of tumor genetics, for the benefit of patients. This year, as part of an international effort, NFCR scientists discovered that many patients with gastric cancer have mutations in the well-known BRCA2 gene, which means they may benefit from existing treatments for breast cancer. They also discovered a key genetic factor that makes brain tumors resistant to treatment, as well as a genetic biomarker that will help doctors choose whether to pursue early, aggressive treatments for the patients with endometrial cancer who are most likely to benefit. Wei Zhang, Ph.D., NFCR Center for Cancer Systems Informatics at MD Anderson Cancer Center
Selenium for Immune Health and Cancer Prevention
A well-balanced diet contributes significantly to the maintenance of good health, and NFCR-sponsored researchers have been investigating the links between nutrition and cancer prevention for decades. Their latest research publications have focused on the role of selenium, a nutrient found in certain nuts, fruits, and multi-micronutrient supplements. The body incorporates selenium into specialized compounds and proteins that are not only critical for chemoprevention of cancer, but can also improve the function of immune cells to fight infection – or even cancer, directly. While there is no need for healthy people without a deficiency to supplement their selenium intake, for those fighting infections or cancer it may be beneficial. Helmut Sies, M.D., Heinrich-Heine-Universitat, Dusseldorf
In Clinics Now
New Front-line Treatment for Lung Cancer
In July, the FDA approved the drug Iressa® as front-line treatment for patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The approval is extended to only those patients whose tumors contain specific mutations – originally identified by an NFCR scientist – that make the drug especially effective. NFCR scientists are leading the way in personalized medicine, helping new treatments reach the patients who will benefit the most. Daniel Haber, M.D., Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital