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VAI Voice

The Official Blog of Van Andel Institute
12 Oct 2017

A Catalyst for combating cancer

Nearly $5.5 million in grant funding to fuel collaborative clinical trials in lung and bladder cancers

By Dr. Peter Jones and Dr. Steve Baylin
Co-leaders, Van Andel Research Institute–Stand Up To Cancer Epigenetics Dream Team

Earlier today, Stand Up To Cancer and its scientific partner the American Association for Cancer Research, announced funding for 10 clinical trials at sites across the U.S. as part of the new SU2C Catalyst®, a collaborative effort to clinically evaluate powerful drug combinations as potential cancer treatments.

We are thrilled that two of these grants will support new clinical trials by Van Andel Research Institute–Stand Up To Cancer Epigenetics Dream Team scientists —a $2.5 million SU2C Catalyst grant funded by Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ, USA (known as MSD outside the U.S. and Canada) through a subsidiary for non-small cell lung cancer, one of the most common and deadly types of cancer, and a $2.9 million SU2C Catalyst grant funded by Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, for bladder cancer, a tough-to-treat disease that claims thousands of lives annually.

In addition to funding and access to medications provided by Merck and Genentech, we are thankful for the support of Astex Pharmaceuticals and of Mirati Therapeutics, both of which will provide necessary medications for the combination treatments being investigated in the trials.

As its name implies, SU2C Catalyst is a mechanism for momentum. Today’s announcement represents an unprecedented collaborative effort between dozens of organizations across the U.S., each with a singular goal in mind—beating cancer. We believe SU2C Catalyst will help us get there by fueling these crucial trials and leveraging our collective expertise and resources for maximum impact.

The spirit of synergy and collaboration is woven into not only SU2C Catalyst and the teams themselves, but also into the treatments being tested. Both of our trials will harness the body’s own ability to fight off cancer by pairing immunotherapies with epigenetic drugs to make cancer cells more visible to the immune system, ultimately making them more susceptible to attack by the body’s natural defenses.

These powerful combinations have already shown promising results in laboratory studies. If successful in clinical trials, they could give physicians robust new ways to reverse tumors’ resistance to cancer therapies, ultimately improving patient responses.

The importance of these new trials, along with the four VARI–SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team trials currently underway, cannot be overstated. Each of us, at some point in our lives, will be affected by cancer, either through our own diagnosis or through the diagnosis of a loved one, a neighbor or a colleague.

It is our sincere hope that the results of these trials, which are among the first ten clinical trials supported by SU2C Catalyst, will be the start of something big that removes the power from the words “you have cancer.” There is still much to be done, but together we can bring about profound and positive change that will have an impact for years to come.

To read the full announcements from VARI and Stand Up To Cancer, please visit our News section. Please note, VARI does not treat patients and cannot provide medical advice. For more information on these trials and others, please visit our Clinical Trials section.