November 09, 2017
MD Anderson named site of NIH immunotherapy research center
BY Scott Merville
A major national effort to expand the reach of cancer immunotherapy in order to benefit more patients will draw upon the expertise of a team of researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center.
The institution will provide one of four national Cancer Immune Monitoring and Analysis Centers (CIMACs) designed to conduct deep tumor analysis and immune monitoring for adult and pediatric immunotherapy clinical trials.
The centers are part of the Partnership for Accelerating Cancer Therapies (PACT) announced today by the National Institutes of Health. The five-year, $210-million public-private partnership aims to identify and develop biomarkers to guide and improve treatments that help the immune system attack cancer. NIH leaders note that cancer immunotherapies cause dramatic improvement in some patients, a success that needs to be extended to more people and a greater variety of cancers.
The CIMACs will bring their expertise to bear on systematic collection, processing and analysis of blood and tumor samples.
“We want to improve immune monitoring to better understand the mechanisms that lead tumors to respond to or resist treatment so we can develop new, better strategies for patients,” said Ignacio Wistuba, M.D., chair of Translational Molecular Pathology and principal investigator of the center.
The MD Anderson CIMAC will receive $11 million over five years and will connect mainly with clinical trials conducted by two of the National Cancer Institute’s cooperative groups – multi-institutional networks that conduct major clinical trials of new cancer drugs.
One of the challenges in developing biomarkers that can predict what treatment would be best for an individual patient is the standardization of research tools and approaches. Wistuba said the CIMACS aim to provide that standardization to optimize biomarker strategies.
“It’s important to have these dedicated centers with the experience and skill to centralize and standardize this work and to conduct the analyses needed to understand how the immune system and tumors respond to treatment,” Wistuba said.