If you’ve seen cancer immunotherapy in the news recently, you probably have heard about combination therapies. As one of the most exciting areas of research in immunology, using drugs in different combinations is proving to be more effective than the drugs alone are. This new area of research is getting more attention, with recent stories in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
The Journal article puts the spotlight on scientists and researchers working with CRI, as well as the types of research the Cancer Research Institute is funding. Mentioned in the article are Drs. James Allison and Charles Drake, the director and a member, respectively, of CRI’s Scientific Advisory Council. And one of the Council’s associate directors, Dr. Jedd Wolchok, recently presented the results of a trial using ipilimumab and nivolumab, two immunotherapies mentioned in the article, that showed a remarkable 40 percent of late-stage metastatic melanoma patients responded to the combination treatment compared to 7 percent and 28 percent who responded to each drug given alone. At the best-responding combination dose, 53% of patients responded, with all of those patients achieving significant or complete regression of their cancer.
The Cancer Research Institute has focused its time and resources in the last decade on combination therapies because of the potential for magnified results. That focus has attracted the attention not only of reporters, biopharmaceutical companies, and researchers, but also donors. Tech entrepreneur and philanthropist Sean Parker announced at CRI’s 27th annual awards dinner that he is donating $1 million to CRI to support our cancer immunology research efforts.
His donation shows the confidence that many people have in what Cancer Research Institute is doing. Using CRI’s new Clinical Accelerator, we are bringing together academic researchers and pharmaceutical companies, like MedImmune/AstraZeneca, Immune Design, and Oncovir, in a way that has not been done before in the immunotherapy space. Because the companies and academics have access to different resources, CRI is helping fill the gaps and connect promising combinations using our global research network.
Combination therapy is tricky. Sometimes it’s not just a matter of getting Drug A and Drug B together, but getting them in the right amounts or the right order and finding out if they will work even better with Drug E or not work at all without Drug F.
That’s why having CRI make connections between scientists and companies that own these drugs is invaluable. This research is ongoing, and more work needs to be done. CRI will continue to forge new partnerships, connect people, and fund clinical trials in order to advance cancer research.
Visit our website to find out more about the Clinical Accelerator and for information about combination therapies that came out of our 2013 Cancer Immunotherapy Consortium meeting. You can also view available immunotherapy clinical trials using our Clinical Trial Finder.