The ultimate goal in cancer research is to speed promising therapies from the laboratory to the clinic — where all patients may eventually benefit. That’s at the core of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Ravitz Foundation Phase I/Translational Research Center. An integral part of this this highly innovative program is that it offers new opportunities to patients who have no other treatment options.
Phase I clinical trials are the first step in testing a potential new therapy in people. They focus on determining the right dose and method for delivering a drug. The ultimate question Phase I trials seek to answer is: Can this new drug slow down or stop cancer growth in a dose patients can tolerate?
Patients are monitored very closely to ensure their safety. As cancer research has evolved, drugs have become much less toxic, lowering patients’ risk significantly, said Moshe Talpaz, M.D., associate director of translational research at the U-M Cancer Center.
“Traditionally, when we looked at chemotherapy, we looked at how much we could give a person, assuming that more is better. We know now from Gleevec and other drugs that more is not always better. Now we’re looking for the optimal biologic dose and the biological changes associated with response,” he said. “It probably provides a better chance of benefit than in the past because we have become more systematic in our research.”
The Ravitz Center is unique in that it focuses solely on targeted therapies. In this approach to cancer treatment, researchers try to develop medications that interrupt the signals that cause cancer cells to reproduce.
Because targeted therapies are focused on cancer cells specifically, they tend to cause fewer side effects. Continue reading