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Annual Report - 2007-2008 - Research

Annual Report - Winter 2009

Momentum in Clinical Trials and New Treatments

Innovative Therapies Developed Through Clinical Trials — A Hallmark of MD Anderson
Inflammatory Beast Cancer — Funding to Move Forward
Leukemia — Strong Early Results for New Frontline Therapy
Breast Cancer — Drug Produces Surprise Results for Metastatic Disease
Melanoma —Biomarker Study Shows Promise
Thyroid Cancer — Blood Vessel Inhibitor May Lead to Individualized Therapy
Proton Therapy — Collaborative Efforts Garner Important Grant
Multiple Myeloma
Grant Boosts Study of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Innovative Therapies Developed Through Clinical Trials — A Hallmark of MD Anderson

MD Anderson is a leader in clinically oriented research for all cancers, including those that are hard to treat. Researchers are spurred by the needs of patients and encouraged by the results of a number of clinical trials with novel new drugs that are being introduced into the clinic here. They also collaborate in large-scale trials that can rapidly enroll the numbers of patients needed for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of new drugs. Currently, MD Anderson clinical investigators are conducting more than 1,100 therapeutic trials for many types of cancer — across departments, across the nation and internationally.

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Inflammatory Beast Cancer — Funding to Move Forward

MD Anderson’s Morgan Welch Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Program and Clinic, the first such program devoted to the disease, received a $4 million appropriation from the Texas Legislature in October 2007 for research into this rare, aggressive and often lethal type of breast cancer. A recent study led by MD Anderson investigators found that combining computed tomography with positron emission tomography enables researchers to more quickly and accurately pinpoint the location of metastases from inflammatory breast cancer.

Published in the March 15, 2008, edition of Clinical Cancer Research.

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Leukemia — Strong Early Results for New Frontline Therapy

Two drugs approved for chronic myelogenous leukemia — dasatinib and nilotinib — are showing promise as frontline therapy for newly diagnosed patients who have received no prior therapy for their disease. Both have been approved by the FDA for patients who no longer tolerate, or whose disease has become resistant to, the frontline therapy Gleevec®. Lead author on the study was Jorge Cortes, M.D., professor in the Department of Leukemia.

Reported December 2008 at the 50th annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology.

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Breast Cancer — Drug Produces Surprise Results for Metastatic Disease

A clinical trial showed that Iressa®, a drug that has shown less than promising results in the treatment of some cancers, enhances the effectiveness of hormonal therapy for the treatment of specific types of metastatic breast cancers. “These findings show the possibility of adding a targeted therapy, such as Iressa, to improve the benefit from hormonal therapy, giving another option to women with this type of metastatic disease,” says Massimo Cristofanilli, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Breast Medical Oncology.

Reported at the May 2008 annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology.

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Melanoma — Biomarker Study Shows Promise

Researchers have identified a safe and well-tolerated dosage of a new biologic agent, TK1258, or dovitinib lactate, for the treatment of patients with advanced melanoma. As one of the first drugs to target fibroblast growth factor receptors that bind to members of this family of proteins, the Phase I study is a key trial to examine the clinical importance of FGF receptors in melanoma and other cancer types.

Presented by Kevin Kim, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology, at the American Society of Clinical Oncology 2008 annual meeting.

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Thyroid Cancer — Blood Vessel Inhibitor May Lead to Individualized Therapy

An experimental drug that inhibits the formation of blood vessels to feed a tumor can slow the growth of metastatic papillary thyroid cancer in some patients. Researchers at 42 institutions in 10 countries and scientists from Amgen, who developed the biologic agent, motesanib, planned and conducted one of the largest clinical trials ever done for this patient population. Further genetic analyses of 25 patients indicated that those with a specific mutation known as BRAF V600E in their tumors had a better response to the investigational drug than those without the mutation.

“Finding that patients whose tumors bear a particular mutation were more likely to respond to the drug is an example of where we would like to head in our research. This is the first of the various thyroid cancer trials to identify specific mutations that might allow us to individualize therapy,” says lead author Steven I. Sherman, M.D., chair of the Department of Endocrine Neoplasia and Hormonal Disorders.

Published in the July 3, 2008, edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

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Proton Therapy — Collaborative Efforts Garner Important Grant

Based on previous research with proton therapy, MD Anderson and Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital received a special program project grant from the National Cancer Institute for a twofold study. First, radiation oncologists will conduct physics research to minimize factors that limit its effectiveness — for example, metal objects, such as dental fillings, prostheses, surgical clips and spinal braces.

Second, they hope to improve the understanding of the biological effects of proton therapy and incorporate this knowledge into the design of proton dose distributions as they plan treatments. In addition to tumor shrinkage, these effects can include weight loss and other factors that may require adaptive re-planning during proton therapy. “The clinical trials of early-stage and locally advanced lung cancer offer the hope of improving treatment and outcome, which would positively affect very large numbers of patients. With the grant, we expect to begin addressing important issues at an accelerated rate. Clinical trials within the scope of the grant, in addition to lung, include liver, medulloblastoma, rhabomyosarcoma, spine and paranasal sinus,” says James Cox, M.D., head of the Division of Radiation Oncology.

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Multiple Myeloma

Two pivotal trials in the treatment of this rare and lethal cancer of the bone marrow led to U.S. Food and Drug Administration approvals:

Combining therapies improves outcome

Results of a Phase III international study comparing the efficacy and safety of the combination of pegylated liposomal doxorubicin (PLD) plus bortezomib with bortezomib alone in patients with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma led to FDA approval of PLD for this group of patients. Robert Orlowski, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator and associate professor in the departments of Lymphoma/Myeloma and Experimental Therapeutics, joined MD Anderson in September 2007, as the director for the Section of Myeloma.

Published in the Sept. 1, 2007, edition of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Collaboration Leads to Breakthrough

Results of a Phase III clinical trial led to FDA approval of lenalidomide and dexamethasone for the treatment of relapsed myeloma. In this study, conducted at 44 centers in the United States and Canada, patients who received this thalidomide derivative in combination with the steroid dexamethasone had improved median overall survival time.

“This trial highlights how large-scale cooperation in a team effort can quickly confirm benefits and introduce new active agents for patients. We also owe a debt of gratitude to the willing patients who participated in this study,” says Donna Weber, M.D., lead author and associate professor in the Department of Lymphoma/Myeloma.

Published Nov. 22, 2008, in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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Grant Boosts Study of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

A new grant brings together clinicians, surgeons, laboratory investigators, physician scientists and consumer advocate/breast cancer survivors to accelerate advances in detection and improved therapy options for women with inflammatory breast cancer. Fredika Robertson, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Experimental Therapeutics, and Massimo Cristofanilli, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Breast Medical Oncology, are co-principal investigators on the $7.5 million American Airlines Susan G. Komen for the Cure Promise Grant. IBC is a rare but aggressive type of breast cancer that develops rapidly and masquerades as an infection, making the affected breast red, swollen and tender.

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© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center