UA Cancer Center Receives $8.6M Grant to Lead One of Three NCI Clinical Trials Networks

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The National Cancer Institute will fund the UA Cancer Prevention Clinical Trials Network, one of three networks in the nation to perform early-phase cancer-prevention clinical trials.


Sherry Chow, PhD and Julie Bauman, MD

The University of Arizona Cancer Center has received an $8.6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute for the UA Cancer Prevention Clinical Trials Network, one of only three such networks funded by the NCI.

Under this funding mechanism, the UA Cancer Center serves as a lead academic organization with 12 affiliated organizations working together to perform early-phase cancer-prevention clinical trials. The network is composed of a team of physicians from diverse specialties, statisticians, clinical staff, data managers, pathologists, translational scientists and other personnel with extensive experience in early-phase (phase 0, I or II) cancer-prevention clinical trials.

Sherry Chow, PhD, co-leader of the Cancer Center Prevention and Control Program, and Julie Bauman, MD, deputy director of the Cancer Center, are co-principal investigators for the grant, which will be funded for five years.

"The mission of the UA Cancer Center is to prevent and cure cancer," Dr. Chow said. "Through these early-phase clinical trials, we will be able to contribute to that mission. We hope to find something that will be safe and effective to use in cancer prevention."

Researchers from the UA Cancer Center and the affiliated organizations will collaborate to design and conduct early-phase clinical trials, which will assess cancer preventive potential for repurposed drugs (drugs already being used for other indications), nutraceutical agents (food or dietary supplements believed to provide health benefits), topical drug delivery (lotion or cream applied to skin) and immunoprevention approaches, such as cancer vaccines. 

"Our nationally recognized team of researchers at the University of Arizona Cancer Center strives to conduct clinical studies that will lead to progressive reductions in cancer incidence, illness and mortality," said UA President Robert C. Robbins, MD. "The clinical trials network is the first critical step in finding new, innovative ways to prevent, detect and treat cancer. I am very excited that these trials will be taking place at the University of Arizona."

The UA Cancer Prevention Clinical Trials Network will be an extension of the UA Early Phase Chemoprevention Consortium, which has been funded continuously by NCI since 2003 for more than $20 million to conduct early-phase clinical trials of chemopreventive agents. These studies have sought to determine the safety and early indications of cancer risk reduction of repurposed drugs, nutraceutical agents, alternative dosing schedules of approved cancer-preventive agents and novel vaccines. 

Early-phase clinical trials are the first step in translating laboratory research findings into clinical testing.

"We've been very successful in conducting early-phase clinical trials, testing different agents for prevention of lung and upper aerodigestive cancers, HPV-associated cancers, breast, prostate, skin, cervical and esophageal cancers," Dr. Chow said. "We have completed 11 of those trials and six are still ongoing. We are very proud of the work we have done, and continue to do, to determine safety and clinical activity of promising agents identified in laboratory research. The new funding will allow us to focus on other prevention concepts, like immunoprevention."

One of the key objectives of the UA Cancer Prevention Clinical Trials Network early-phase clinical trials is to identify effective agents that can be advanced to larger phase III studies for further clinical development. If proven safe and reliable at that stage, new drugs or vaccines may be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the years to come.

"Although we may not see the direct impact in patient care in the short term, we believe we can contribute to developing something in the future that will positively impact patient care," Dr. Chow said. 

National Cancer Institute Project No.: 1UG1CA242596-01.

Collaborating UA investigators include: Paul Hsu, PhD, Linda Garland, MD, Clara Curiel, MD, Yi Zeng, MD, PhD, Sara Centouri, PhD, Lisa Davis, PharmD, Carlos Caulin, PhD, Benjamin Lee, MD, Juanita Merchant, MD, PhD, Pavani Chalasani, MD, Sao Jiralerspong, MD, PhD.

Affiliate organizations include: British Columbia Cancer Agency; Emory University; George Mason University; Johns Hopkins University; Moffitt Cancer Center; Norton Thoracic Institute; Oregon Health & Science University; Stanford University; University of California, San Diego; University of Minnesota; University of North Carolina; and University of Southern California.