$8.35 Million Grant Funds Clinical Cancer Drug Evaluation Program

Aug. 23, 2001

The Arizona Cancer Center was recently awarded an $8.25 million Survival Signals for Molecular Target Assessment (SSMTA) grant from the National Cancer Institute. Led by Principal Investigator Garth Powis, a professor of pathology at the Arizona Cancer Center, and a team of basic researchers and clinical investigators, the grant will study, in patients, the effects of new anticancer drugs on the unique signaling pathways which allow human cancer cells to survive. The five and one half year grant is one of only three such NCI grants in the United States and entails very close cooperation between the NCI and the Arizona Cancer Center.

"This grant puts the Arizona Cancer Center at the forefront of new drug development," said Powis, who is also director of basic research at the center. "It combines the resources of the NCI, the Arizona Cancer Center, pharmaceutical companies and the patient -- everyone with an interest in curing cancer. It really is a cutting-edge bench-to-bedside transitional project ."

Powis anticipates using the information about how new anticancer drugs effect cancer cells in a laboratory setting to measure the drugs' effects on human cancer cells during clinical trials and to eventually lead to new ways to administer the drugs to patients.

"It is a brand-new approach in the way cancer drugs are developed," Powis said.

Powis also noted that anticancer drugs specifically targeted at the inner workings of cancer cells, have the potential to reduce or alleviate the side effects such as hair loss and gastrointestinal difficulties commonly associated with traditional chemotherapy. This is because new drugs seek to disable the survival pathways of human cancer cells rather than attacking all rapidly dividing cells. Powis added that such drugs may eventually allow medical professionals to individualize treatment for each patient, resulting in more effective treatments, lower drug doses and greater patient benefits.

"This is a flagship program for the Arizona Cancer Center, said Center Director Dr. Daniel Von Hoff. "The approach is novel in that this program is built around a much closer collaboration between basic researchers in the laboratory and the clinicians and patients."




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