University of Colorado’s Online Screening for Rare Lung Cancer Subtypes Opens Door to New Kind of Clinical Trial
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Date posted: 26/08/2014
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Health

In the previous few years, several breakthrough treatments have become available for key subtypes of lung cancer. Patients who may benefit from these treatments can be pre-identified by looking for defined genetic abnormalities in their cancer. For example, patients whose lung cancer is driven by rearrangement of the gene ALK derive significant benefit from the drug crizotinib, which targets this abnormality. Many ongoing clinical trials are now attempting to replicate this success by matching different drugs with specific subtypes of the disease based on the presence of such “predictive biomarkers.” However, testing these new drugs in clinical trials requires finding and enrolling patients with what may be very rare molecular subtypes of a disease – one of the challenges is discovering enough needles in enough haystacks to prove the effectiveness of each biomarker-drug pairing.

The University of Colorado Cancer Center is now taking a novel approach to this problem, reaching out via the internet to expand the pool of patients potentially eligible for just such a biomarker-preselected clinical trial. After completing the interactive online screening questions, eligible patients with advanced lung cancer will be consented via the phone to permit a pre-existing biopsy sample of their lung cancer tissue to be shipped to the CU Cancer Center for trial-specific molecular testing. The testing is designed to identify patients who may have lung cancers driven by alterations in the gene FGFR1. Patients whose tumors turn out to be FGFR1-positive and meet the other trial screening criteria will then be offered treatment for their cancer within a clinical trial at CU Cancer Center using the experimental FGFR1 inhibitor drug ponatinib.

“While Big Pharma sometimes spends millions of dollars to open biomarker-selected trials at hundreds of different locations to find enough patients, the kind of innovative approaches that are homegrown in university settings will never have the resource to do that,” said Dr Dr Jack West, the CEO of GRACE. “Regardless of whether the FGFR1-ponatinib pairing works or not, what the Colorado team is trying to do could really change the future of clinical cancer research for the better. Patients are increasingly becoming empowered about their own cancer care. Anything we at GRACE can do to get the word out about the Colorado approach will be a very good thing.”

See the full Story via external site: www.coloradocancerblogs.org