A collaborative approach to a complex problem, initiated by TargetCancer Foundation at a cafeteria table.
Esophageal cancer is among the fastest growing cancers in America. A deadly cancer with no treatment, esophageal cancer affects over 18,000 people per year; yet it receives little funding for research. In 2012, NIH funding for esophageal cancer was equivalent to 2% of the funding given to the top three funded cancers.
TargetCancer Foundation recognized this unmet need and quickly focused resources towards Dr. Adam Bass’ genomic study of esophageal cancer, the largest such study ever attempted. The groundbreaking results of that study were published in Nature Genetics.
While genomic information is critical to understanding this disease, TargetCancer Foundation identified an opportunity to take this research even further after meeting Dr. Michael Goldberg, a rising star in the rapidly growing field of cancer immunotherapy.
“I truly appreciate the foresight that TargetCancer Foundation has had. Their interest is truly in helping to spark new projects and new collaborations that help us take our research forward in ways that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. In this case, by jumpstarting a new collaboration between me and Michael, TargetCancer Foundation has helped to launch a whole new avenue of research with stunning capacity to impact the treatment of patients with esophageal cancer.”
– Dr. Adam Bass
Why not take Dr. Bass’ genomic discoveries, and incorporate them into Dr. Goldberg’s work activating the immune system against cancer? With TargetCancer Foundation’s help, an unconventional collaboration was born almost immediately over coffee in the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) cafeteria.
At this informal meeting, two scientists who would not have otherwise worked together realized the possibilities of correlating genomic features of esophageal cancer with immunotherapeutic targets. By leveraging their own data and the available resources at DFCI, Dr. Bass and Dr. Goldberg saw an opportunity to accelerate the identification of treatment targets in esophageal cancer.
This collaborative work has yielded significant discoveries, specifically around the identification of immunotherapeutic targets for which approved treatments in other cancers already exist. These discoveries led directly to a new clinical trial, expected to open in mid-2016 at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, testing an existing immunotherapy against esophageal cancer.
TargetCancer Foundation has also provided funding for in-depth studies related to this trial, allowing for a better understanding of why some patients respond to immunotherapy, and just as importantly, why some do not.