In July NCATS announced nearly $3 million to fund cooperative agreements with four academic research groups to conduct pre-clinical validation studies, clinical feasibility studies or proof-of-concept clinical trials to test whether the selected assets may be effective against a previously unexplored disease target. Disease areas include glioblastoma.
Madan M.Kwatra, PhD, associate professor of Pharmacology & Cancer Biology, has been awarded an NIH/NCATS grant to develop AZD9291 for glioblastoma.
Glioblastoma is one of the most aggressive and common brain tumors in adults. According to an announcement posted by the NIH on New Therapeutic Uses Projects Awards page, current treatments have failed to extend median survival time beyond 15 months, indicating an urgent need for a more effective GBM therapy. To achieve this goal, scientists must better understand the molecular machinery that drives GBM. Recent work indicates that a subset of GBM tumors show elevated activity of a protein known to affect tumor growth called epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR).
Tumors with overactive EGFR also have enhanced activity of another protein called HER2. AZD9291 is a compound that can cross the blood-brain barrier. It was originally designed to treat lung cancer and blocks the activity of both EGFR and HER2. The proposed studies are designed to find an effective therapy for glioblastoma patients with an activated form of EGFR. This work could lead to the development of a new, more effective and more precise treatment strategy for a specific group of GBM patients.
Kwatra and Lesser will receive $457,460 in the first year. Additional funding is contingent upon meeting the pre-clinical milestones but could amount to several million dollars. For more information on New Therapeutic Uses 2015 Project Awards, visit the National Institutes of Health.