To define better intervention strategies for individuals with aggressive cancers through: (i) a better understanding of disease classification and patient selection criteria, (ii) development and use of more predictive models (e.g. patient-derived cancer xenograft models) for targeted indications, (iii) a better understanding of tumor-stromal interactions and mechanistic actions of targeted therapies; (iv) integration of relevant imaging tools to rapidly assess therapeutic potential of treatments, (v) application of gene expression data to better understand the immediate impacts of treatment, and (vi) maintenance and expansion of the needed infrastructure to develop therapeutics in an academic setting.
Overarching Objectives and Exemplifying Initiatives:
Experimental Therapeutics is a translational research department which provides therapeutic and diagnostic development capabilities focused on the critical need to rapidly establish the therapeutic value of emerging technologies through validated assessments in preclinical models of cancer and in patients. This effort is highlighted by several initiatives: i) the BC Pancreatic Cancer Research Net (http://pancreascentrebc.ca
), an excellent example of a partnership between clinical and basic research scientists at VGH, UBC, and BCCA as well as donors all focused on advancing pancreatic cancer research in BC; ii) the first clinical study (supported by Roche and Varian) of the PET imaging agent 18F-EF5 in Canada, a study evaluating changes in hypoxia in NSCLC following treatment with Avastin; iii) the formal clinical development of an improved formulation of irinotecan; activities that included completion of formal GLP toxicology studies and prototype GMP manufacturing; iv) creation of the living tumor laboratory (www.livingtumorlab.com), a unique Canadian resource created to improve the predictivity of pre-clinical drug efficacy evaluation of new or existing anti-cancer drugs, using patient-derived, clinically highly relevant cancer xenograft models and v) developing the collaboration with the Centre for Drug Research and Development. ET has established a strong multidisciplinary program of grant and industry funded research projects and clinical trials. ET aspires to be the crowning jewel of the BC Cancer Agency’s translational research vision and one of the premier sites in North America to evaluate therapeutic interventions designed to improve treatment outcomes in cancer patients that are in need of better, more personalized, treatment options.
Objectives: Through a strategy embracing collaborative programs with research and clinical scientists allied across major tumour sites, Experimental Therapeutics will become well respected internationally for our proficiency and efficiency in linking preclinical and clinical research. This effort will rely on existing strengths within the BC Cancer Agency and will be developed around several broad objectives/goals:
Objective 1: To complete strategic recruitment of research scientists to provide new expertise to the BC Cancer Agency’s Research Centre. Expertise needed include- (1) a clinical pharmacologist, more specifically an individual with capabilities to support pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic assessments of novel therapeutic strategies in preclinical animal models and in patients, (2) a toxicologist, more specifically an individual with capabilities to complete formal toxicological studies of cancer drugs in rodents and apply this information to clinical development strategies and clinical protocol development, (3) a biochemist, more specifically focused on identification/ assessment of existing and novel therapeutics via methods that integrate molecular prognostic data to in vitro and in vivo anticancer activity.
Objective 2: To obtain external funds for the maintenance and expansion of the Investigational Drug Program. More specifically, the GMP compliant clean room was operating at maximum capacity, however, with the down turn in the economy and collapse of the local biotechnology sector has resulted in a significant decrease in business. A revised business plan and market assessment must be developed for IDP.
Objective 3: To support the unique Living Tumor Laboratory so that is the best such facility in North American. It is anticipated that high-quality patient-derived cancer xenograft models will become the most common model used to assess the clinical potential of emerging cancer therapeutics.
Objective 4: To establish the department as the gateway to oncology focused drug development initiatives that are emerging provincially and nationally. We will continue to play a lead role in the Oncology component of the Centre for Drug Research and Development.
Objective 5: To maintain IDP’s capabilities to meet the requirements of Health Canada’s Therapeutic Products Directorate (TPD) as well as EU GMP directives given the increasingly international scope of drug development. IDP is manufacturing, packaging and testing aseptically produced clinical trial materials.
Objective 6: To enhance the Phase I/ early Phase II clinical trials capability of the BC Cancer Agency, ensuring that trials of new agents are done in a comprehensive unit specializing in these studies. This unit must have full capabilities for proper clinical trial procedures, pharmacokinetic sampling, tissue and blood sampling, drug delivery and toxicity assessment. This unit will enhance the Agency’s ability to do a wider variety of clinical trials, including investigator initiated studies of novel strategies to treat cancer.