September 09, 2016
APOLLO project aims to expose cancer’s evasive action
BY Scott Merville
A study that indicates how advanced melanoma responds to an immunotherapy, published in Cancer Discovery, demonstrates a revolutionary approach from MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program that relies on longitudinal sampling and deep molecular analyses to understand the dynamics of cancer response to treatment.
In the study, gene expression and immune biomarkers analyzed in pre-treatment biopsies did not predict response, but early-on treatment biopsies uncovered important immune biomarkers of response.
“Certainly, finding predictive biomarkers in pre-treatment biopsies is the Holy Grail, but pre-treatment and early on-treatment biopsies might be a winning combination,” Futreal said.
“Cancers are exceptionally adaptive in the face of treatment pressure,” said Andrew Futreal, Ph.D., interim chair of Genomic Medicine and co-leader of the Moon Shots Program. “We know a tumor after therapy is likely to be different than before, but we haven’t done a good job at tackling this from a research perspective until now.”
Futreal also co-leads the Adaptive Patient-Oriented Longitudinal Learning and Optimization (APOLLO) platform, designed to get a scientific grip on the extreme survival skills of advanced cancers.
APOLLO will gather high-quality biopsies and blood samples taken before, during and at the end of treatment, prepare them for genomic/molecular analysis and immune response monitoring by expert platforms, and then deposit the results, with clinical information, in a secure, comprehensive database for researchers to address crucial questions and improve treatment.
“APOLLO provides standardized collection of high-quality longitudinal samples that will allow us to conduct the deep molecular analysis over time and under therapy that we need to make practice-changing advances for patients,” Futreal said.
The idea is to understand factors that lead to tumor response, non-response or development of resistance to treatment in diseases that are tenacious moving targets for therapy. More effective use of targeted therapies and immunotherapies depends on such knowledge.
In the next two years, APOLLO is scheduled to conduct such analyses in 2,100 patients enrolled in 28 high-priority clinical trials for melanoma, multiple myeloma, glioblastoma, lymphoma, lung, breast, colorectal, pancreas, ovarian cancers, sarcoma, and cancers caused by the human papilloma virus.
Read more about this study in MD Anderson’s Newsroom.
“Certainly, finding predictive biomarkers in pre-treatment biopsies is the Holy Grail, but pre-treatment and early on-treatment biopsies might be a winning combination."
Andrew Futreal, Ph.D., co-leader of the Moon Shots Program