publication date: Apr. 20, 2018

In Brief

SU2C focuses on precursor conditions in multiple myeloma

Stand Up To Cancer announced a $10 million award to a Stand Up To Cancer Dream Team focused on revolutionizing the treatment of multiple myeloma through early detection of precursor conditions before they turn into full-blown disease.

The SU2C Multiple Myeloma Dream Team will be led by Irene Ghobrial, associate professor of medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and co-director of the Center for the Prevention of Progression of Blood Cancers at DFCI, with Ivan Borrello, associate professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of the Cell Therapy and GMP Biologics Core at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, as co-leader.

The announcement of the new SU2C Multiple Myeloma Dream Team was made at an event during the 2018 Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, SU2C’s Scientific Partner. The Dream Team is the 23rd announced by SU2C since its inception in 2008 and the first SU2C Dream Team devoted entirely to a hematologic malignancy.

The project will involve what is believed to be the first large-scale population survey in the United States for precursor conditions of multiple myeloma, specifically monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance or smoldering multiple myeloma.

Blood samples from approximately 50,000 people, recruited largely through social media, will be analyzed to find what is expected to be about 3,000 with the precursor conditions, which cause no symptoms and are usually detected only when a physician orders a blood test for another reason.

Because it is unclear how to tell whether someone with MGUS or SMM will progress to full-blown multiple myeloma, the research team will follow those with the precursor conditions and will use the samples to discover biomarkers that will help predict those with a high risk of progressing. The team will also work to develop treatments for high-risk SMM and multiple myeloma.

The target population for the survey includes people with first-degree relatives who have had multiple myeloma, and African-Americans, since African-Americans are three times more likely than whites to develop the precursor conditions and tend to develop them at an earlier age.

Websites will allow people who have the specified characteristics to sign up for the survey, provide their consent, and obtain a sample kit which their doctors can use to draw blood samples and send the samples to the research team.

In addition to Ghobrial and Borrello, the Dream Team will include:

  • Joseph Mikhael, associate professor of medicine, Mayo Clinic Arizona;

  • Timothy Rebbeck, professor of epidemiology, DFCI;

  • Jeremiah Johnson, associate professor of chemistry, MIT;

  • Lorelei Ann Mucci, associate professor of epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health;

  • Gad Getz, director of cancer genome computational analysis, Broad Institute; and

  • Viktor A. Adalsteinsson, group leader, Blood Biopsy Team, Broad Institute.

Serving as patient advocates on the Dream Team are Cheryl Boyce, executive director emeritus of the Ohio Commission on Minority Health, and Jenny Ahlstrom, president and founder of the Myeloma Crowd, a division of the Crowd Care Foundation. Both are multiple myeloma patients.

The hypothesis of this proposal is that early detection of MGUS/SMM in a high-risk population, along with a good understanding of the molecular and immune factors that lead to disease progression, will lead to effective strategies that intercept disease progression and improve survival.

The Dream Team proposes to conduct a screening study of individuals over the age of 45, who are at a high risk for having MGUS or SMM, such as African-Americans and individuals who have a first-degree relative that has been diagnosed with a plasma cell disorder. This study will be called the PROMISEstudy. IT will focus on these populations because they are two to three-fold more likely than others to have these precursor conditions.

The team expects to screen 50,000 individuals to obtain 3,000 MGUS/SMM cases to intensively study and follow over time as a cohort. The Dream Team will study this cohort in an effort to define biological characteristics that will help to identify which patients will benefit from particular therapies. These biological characteristics include inherited mutations, acquired mutations, and immune factors. The Dream Team will also identify lifestyle and demographic factors that contribute to disease progression, such as obesity and race.

The team will use this information to develop new therapeutics that that can be used to prevent MM from progressing. These include novel technologies of nanoparticles for better imaging of early disease and the first personalized neoantigen vaccine study for the population of patients screened.


St. Baldrick’s commits $8 million to SU2C Pediatric Cancer Dream Team

The work of the Stand Up to Cancer-St. Baldrick’s Foundation Pediatric Cancer Dream Team, launched in 2013 to help develop new immunotherapy approaches to high-risk childhood cancers, will continue with a commitment of $8 million from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the world’s largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants. To further the impact of this gift, the eight institutions that make up the consortium have committed matching dollars to a total of $16 million.

Continuing as co-leaders of the newly charged St. Baldrick’s-Stand Up to Cancer Pediatric Cancer Dream Team are John Maris, pediatric oncologist and holder of the Giulio D’Angio Chair in Neuroblastoma Research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and Crystal Mackall, professor of pediatrics (hematology and oncology) at Stanford University and associate director of the Stanford Cancer Institute.

St. Baldrick’s and Stand Up to Cancer initially provided the Dream Team, consisting of more than 150 researchers at eight institutions, with $14.5 million over a four-year term beginning in 2013. The Dream Team worked to improve and expand immunotherapy in childhood cancers.


Isabella Santos Foundation gives $5 million for rare & solid tumor program at Levine Children’s Hospital

Atrium Health’s Levine Children’s Hospital announced a $5 million charitable commitment from the Isabella Santos Foundation to establish The Isabella Santos Foundation Rare & Solid Tumor Program at Levine Children’s Hospital. The program will oversee care for all solid tumors, rare tumors, metaiodobenzylguanidine therapy and all related clinical and scientific research at Levine Children’s Hospital.

The team will be constructed over a period of five years, with the initial focus on hiring a medical director, who will be the Isabella Santos Foundation Endowed Chair in Rare & Solid Tumors. This program will serve nearly one-third of the 135 new cancer patients Levine Children’s Hospital sees each year and will allow the hospital to expand their clinical trials.

This $5 million gift comes on the heels of a $1 million donation the Isabella Santos Foundation made in 2017 to help build a MIBG suite at Levine Children’s Hospital. The two-room MIBG suite, which will include a lead-lined patient room and an adjoining room for parents and caregivers, will provide targeted radiation to pediatric neuroblastoma patients and is slated to open in late 2018.

In 2007, Isabella Santos was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare form of childhood cancer that affects approximately 750 children a year. During her five-year fight against cancer, Isabella received much of her care at Levine Children’s Hospital. However, some of the clinical trials and advanced treatments she needed were only available out of state.

While the Santos family had the option of seeking treatment elsewhere, Erin Santos, Isabella’s mother and co-founder and president of the Isabella Santos Foundation, knew many others who couldn’t. With this gift, families will have access to the latest cancer treatments and expertise in Charlotteand this region.

Javier Oesterheld, the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation Endowed Chair in Cancer & Blood Disorders and Specialty Medical Director at Levine Children’s Hospital’s Torrence E. Hemby, Jr. Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Blood and Marrow Transplant Center, cared for Isabella and has spent his career specializing in neuroblastoma, with an emphasis on conducting clinical trials.


MedStar Georgetown offers proton therapy with HYPERSCAN technology for adults and kids with cancer

MedStar Georgetown University Hospital has opened a Proton Therapy Center.

MedStar Georgetown is the first and only proton center in the world to offer the Mevion S250i withHYPERSCAN technology, producing beams that are sharper than previous proton systems. Proton therapy with HYPERSCAN is also faster than other proton systems, benefiting patients whose treatment includes holding their breath.


Reprocell and Fox Chase to open biosample repository in India

Reprocell USA, a subsidiary of Japan’s Reprocell Inc., and Fox Chase Ltd., one of the Fox Chase Cancer Center organizations, formed a joint venture to operate a multi-site bio-sample repository facility in India.

Initial operations are underway in Delhi with plans to expand to Hyderabad later this year. The facilities will add approximately 3,000 new bio-samples monthly. Collected specimens will be supported by annotations that include medical history, mutation data and detailed records of treatment protocols as well as outcomes.

Copyright (c) 2018 The Cancer Letter Inc.