Bob Zhang, Author at NFCR - Page 2 of 10

Bob Zhang


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What is Angiogenesis?

Angiogenesis is the formation of new blood vessels.

The process involves the growth of endothelial cells, which line the inside walls of blood vessels.

Angiogenesis is a normal and vital process in growth and development, but it also plays a role in several diseases, including cancers.

A blood supply is necessary for tumors to grow beyond a few millimeters in size and transition from a benign state to a malignant one. In other words, angiogenesis is a cause for concern with tumors because it feeds and sustains them.

Without a proper blood supply, a tumor wouldn’t be able to grow beyond a certain size or spread, so scientists are trying to find ways to block tumor angiogenesis.

NFCR Research Highlights

Dr. Harold F. Dvorak, who received NFCR funding for over 30 years, discovered that tumor cells secrete a vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and this discovery provided the molecular basis for the field of angiogenesis. Dr. Dvorak’s discovery helped pave the way for research on anti-angiogenesis treatments that can halt and even reverse tumor growth.

In 2004, the first VEGF-targeting anti-angiogenic drug Avastin® was approved by the FDA for the treatment of colorectal cancer, and, today, in addition to colorectal cancer, Avastin is approved for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer, renal cell carcinoma (a type of kidney cancer), the aggressive brain cancer glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) and certain types of cervical and ovarian cancers. More than 280 clinical trials are currently investigating the use of Avastin in over 50 tumor types.

NFCR-funded scientist Dr. Rakesk Jain’s seminal research demonstrated that anti-angiogenic therapy works by normalizing the abnormal, leaky blood vessels that usually surround and penetrate tumors. This therapy improves the delivery of chemotherapy drugs, increases the oxygen content of cancer cells and makes radiation treatments more effective.

Dr. Jain is now focused on the role of angiogenesis in GBM, the deadliest form of brain cancer. Dr. Jain’s research is helping doctors better tailor the use of anti-angiogenic therapies by identifying the characteristics that cause resistance to anti-angiogenic therapy for GBM patients. Additionally, Dr. Jain and his team are aiming to identify molecular resistance pathways that may direct the development of new drugs that target these pathways and could extend the benefits of anti-angiogenic therapies for patients.

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Combating Metastases

What is Combating Metastases?

Metastatic cancer is the term used to describe any cancer that has spread from the area it started in to other areas of the body. For some types of cancer, metastasis is also called stage IV cancer, and metastatic cancers are often hard to control.

Cancer can spread to any part of the body, but the most common sites of metastasis are the bones, brain, liver and lungs. Although metastasis causes more than 90% of cancer-related deaths, it only receives less than 5% of research funding.

NFCR Research Highlights

Dr. Danny Welch directs the NFCR Center for Metastasis Research. Through their research, Dr. Welch and his team have discovered eight of the more than 30 known metastasis suppressor genes. Further research based on these discoveries may lead to the design of molecules that either prevent metastasis from happening or maintain metastatic tumors in a dormant state. They have also identified genetic changes that predict whether or not patients will develop metastasis. At least some of these genetic changes occur in mitochondria – where cells convert nutrients into energy. Mitochondrial DNA is present in every cell and is small enough to be rapidly analyzed, which means that a simple blood draw and analysis of mitochondrial DNA could be used to help treat patients.

NFCR-funded scientist Dr. Daniel Haber developed the CTC-iChip – an advanced micro-engineered device that captures extremely rare circulating tumor cells from the blood. Genetic testing on captured CTCs may give doctors a way to more effectively treat the tumor or stop it from spreading. Moreover, CTCs allow the response of treatments to be monitored in real-time. This device could dramatically improve treatment and diagnosis for many different types of metastatic cancers, including metastatic breast cancer.

Dr. Alice Shaw’s laboratory, which is supported by NFCR, focuses on developing new strategies to overcome lung cancer treatment resistance. She is now focusing new research on the brain, which is the most common site of metastasis for anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) positive non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). She is looking into why these tumor growths become resistant to crizotinib (Xalkori®). Her team launched a clinical trial with the newest ALK inhibitor – lorlatinib – and they are using both tissue and liquid biopsies to identify genetic alterations that may be driving the resistance.

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What is GBM AGILE?

Glioblastoma Multiforme (also known as GBM) is the deadliest brain cancer and is widely regarded as incurable and universally fatal, killing 95% of patients within five years of diagnosis. NFCR is part of a robust, international coalition working on innovative ways to research the disease: the Global Coalition for Adaptive Research (GCAR).

Led by the best and brightest cancer researchers, GBM AGILE is a revolutionary global collaboration to test and develop new brain cancer treatments. Its personalized approach will allow us to accelerate the discovery of targeted treatments for individual patients.

This global coalition has attracted over 150 participants from more than 40 leading cancer institutions across three continents. It implements a new generation of clinical trials – called “adaptive trials” – which allow patients to be enrolled more quickly, receive treatment(s) based on each patient’s individualized response and does not require years of follow-up to determine whether a new experimental treatment is beneficial. By allowing for multiple new drug combinations and treatments to be used while removing ineffective drugs quickly, this revolutionary approach accelerates research for curing the aggressive form of cancer GBM and will serve as a new clinical research model for combating other cancers as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is GBM AGILE different than other clinical trials?

Efforts to improve patient outcomes is underway by replacing conventional clinical trials with faster, cheaper, more adaptable and more in tune with modern molecular medicine “adaptive trials” like GBM AGILE.

GBM AGILE (Glioblastoma Multiforme Adaptive Global Innovative Learning Environment) is a new generation of adaptive clinical trials that allows patients to be enrolled more quickly, receive treatment(s) based on each patient’s own  molecular markers and does not require years of follow-up to determine whether a new experimental treatment is beneficial.

What is the National Foundation for Cancer Research’s role in GBM AGILE?

To take action over one of the world’s deadliest diseases, over 150 researchers from more than 40 leading cancer institutions across four continents have joined forces to find cures for GBM by launching the first-ever global, adaptive clinical trial that will revolutionize how brain cancer treatments are tested and developed.

NFCR is proud to be a strategic partner to GCAR and a founder and major financial supporter of the GBM AGILE initiative, as well as part of the executive steering committee helping to develop and manage the trial protocol.

How do I get on this trial?

GBM AGILE will run trials at multiple locations throughout  the world. The protocol is in development, and patient enrollment information will be posted as soon as it becomes available.

Who is eligible to enroll in this trial?

Eligibility criteria is currently being finalized. More details coming soon.

Why is this trial only focused on GBM?

GBM is the most common and the most lethal form of brain cancer in adults. Widely regarded as incurable and universally fatal, GBM kills 95% of patients within five years of diagnosis, with more than half dying within the first 15 months after diagnosis. Although there have been hundreds of standard clinical trials for GBM, there is currently no cure and survival rates for patients with GBM have not improved in any meaningful way in over 30 years. This is unacceptable. Patients with GBM (and their families) desperately need better treatments and better outcomes now.

Will there be AGILE trials for other cancers?

While adaptive trials are not yet commonplace, Congress and the U.S. FDA are focused on accelerating their development to benefit patients. In fact, experts predict that systems like GBM AGILE will eventually become the standard for all cancer clinical trials. For the AGILE team, a potential next phase of AGILE trials would be applying the trial design learned from GBM to cancers such as liver and stomach cancer.

NFCR Research Highlights

As a founding member of GBM AGILE’s sponsoring body, NFCR has continued to take a leading role in this unprecedented global effort. President Dr. Sujuan Ba is a member of the Board of Directors, while two of its Executive Team members are esteemed scientists recruited by the Foundation: NFCR Scientific Advisory Board Chairman Dr. Webster Cavenee of the Ludwig Cancer Institute and NFCR Fellow Dr. W.K. Alfred Yung of the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

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