New cancer drug development institute at UT MD Anderson

Academic and government leaders announced the establishment of a major new research institute at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center that will blend the best attributes of academic and industrial research to identify and validate new cancer targets, convert such scientific knowledge into new cancer drugs, and advance these novel agents into innovative clinical trials.

“The Institute for Applied Cancer Science will exploit the enormous opportunities provided by recent truly transformative scientific and technological advances to improve the appallingly low rate of success in the nation’s current cancer drug development system,” Ronald DePinho, M.D., president of MD Anderson, said.

“Only 5-10 percent of potential cancer drugs make it from initial discovery all the way to patients as approved treatments. And more than half of those fail in phase III clinical trials, the final step of development. That’s costly not just economically but costly to patients who are subjected to largely ineffective treatments,” he said. “Improving this unacceptable performance requires that we hit the reset button and develop a new organizational model that systematically secures the knowledge needed to fully understand key targets and develop a clear clinical path for new therapies.”

The institute is designed to convert basic discoveries into effective new drugs and complementary diagnostics for cancer patients via multidisciplinary collaboration using a full range of state-of-the-art technologies, said Raymond DuBois, M.D., Ph.D., MD Anderson’s executive vice president and provost. It will enhance and align with many other programs at MD Anderson, spanning basic, translational and clinical research.

DePinho and institute leaders joined Gov. Rick Perry and University of Texas System Board of Regents Chairman Gene Powell to announce creation of the institute today.

Researchers in academic medicine excel in identifying molecular changes that drive cancer development and growth, leading to the identification of potential drug targets, DuBois noted. “In recent years, academic researchers have moved into translational research, those final steps between the lab and first-in-human Phase I clinical trials that were once largely the domain of pharmaceutical companies.”

As pharmaceutical companies focus their resources more on later stage clinical trials and commercialization, and entrepreneurial biotech companies struggle financially during slow economic times, that shift is important.

Yet, the cultural divide between academic research and the intense, goal-oriented focus of biotechnology companies constitutes what the institute’s new leaders call “the valley of death” in drug development.

“Efficient conversion of discoveries into effective medicines will require seamless integration of not only discovery and applied science, but also the exploratory and goal-oriented cultures in academia and industry,” DuBois said. “Our institute leaders are highly accomplished in both realms and have outstanding experience in bridging the gap between them.”

The Institute for Applied Cancer Science will be housed in South Campus Research Buildings 3 and 4, located on East Road.

Source: University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, USA

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