Immunotherapy is an exciting area of oncology, and we have several studies open in this category.Jason Faris, MD
Previously, Jason Faris, MD, Director of the Early-Phase Trials Program at Dartmouth’s and Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC) described what Phase I, II and II trials are. This week, he details some exciting and innovating early-phase trials underway at the cancer center.
Q: What types of early-phase trials are open now at NCCC?
Faris: We have multiple early-phase clinical trials open now, in several categories. These include trials of new anti-cancer drugs or combinations of drugs, studies to gauge the success of standard chemotherapy and development of novel devices or imaging methods to assist surgeons in removing tumors. We also have trials for evaluation of biomarkers, derived from blood and tissue sample tests in cancer patients to predict who may respond to a given therapy. We are also continuously looking for opportunities to harness the findings from our highly accomplished Dartmouth and NCCC colleagues in the laboratory to lead to clinical trials, a process called bench-to-bedside translation.
Most of our open early-phase clinical trials that focus on the evaluation of new treatments fall into two groups. The first is targeted therapies, where a drug is designed to bind to a specific tumor protein or tumor-associated protein to slow down or kill tumor cells. The other is immunotherapies, where drugs are administered to activate the immune system to attack cancer cells. This is a bit oversimplified, since there are combinations of targeted therapy and immunotherapy that work well together, and other targeted and immunotherapy combinations that are under evaluation.
Immunotherapy is an exciting area of oncology, and we have several studies open in this category. For example, we have immunotherapy trials for patient populations that haven’t been well studied. These include a combination immunotherapy trial in patients with rare tumor types, as well as a trial of an immune checkpoint inhibitor in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer who also have autoimmune disease. These patients are usually excluded from the use of immunotherapy because of side effect concerns. Determining which groups of patients with autoimmune diseases may be able to safely receive immunotherapy is important.
We have a number of other Phase I and II targeted therapy and immunotherapy trials scheduled to open in 2020, and will offer options for patients with multiple types of advanced cancers.
Jason Faris, MD, is the director of the Early-Phase Trials Program, member of the Cancer Biology and Therapeutics Research Program, and a practicing medical oncologist in the Gastrointestinal Oncology Program at Dartmouth’s and Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center, focusing on pancreatic, colorectal and hepatobiliary cancers. He is also an assistant professor of Medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. His research interests include the discovery and evaluation of new therapeutics for patients with cancer.