In the Spring of 2015, more than 35 of the nation’s leading cancer researchers joined an unprecedented effort to improve lung cancer treatment. The Lung Cancer Dream Team, as it’s known, is specifically focused on a difficult-to-treat lung cancer with a common gene mutation called KRAS, which occurs in 20-30% of lung cancers.
“Not only is this a very common problem -- and therefore the results will impact many people -- but strategies to target KRAS can be applied to patients with other cancers [that have this mutation],” says team co-leader Jedd Wolchok, MD, PhD, a researcher at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
When we wrote in about the Lung Cancer Dream Team in 2015, the scientists were just getting started. Here’s a recap of who they are and what they’ve been doing since then.
The scientists: Dream Team members are experts from 8 top cancer centers who received a combined $20 million grant from the American Cancer Society and Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), a nonprofit organization started by the Entertainment Industry Foundation in 2008 that focuses on research collaborations.
The strategy: Researchers are combining their unique specialties and merging two highly promising treatment approaches: targeted therapy and immunotherapy. Targeted therapy researchers are looking for ways to destroy KRAS mutated cells in lung cancer. Immunotherapy researchers are investigating ways to help a patient’s immune system better fight their cancer. Scientists have looked at both treatment approaches individually, but Dream Team researchers believe integrating these approaches could be key to advancing progress.
The research: Dream Team members started swiftly with specific plans for 10 different clinical trials. They are actively enrolling patients in 3 open clinical trials and anticipate to open 3 additional trials in the first quarter of 2017. “We are also conducting a large study using tumors from patients receiving immunotherapy to determine important biomarkers of response,” Wolchok says. “With a goal of collecting 1,000 tumors, this is likely the largest such effort and will be a highly impactful dataset and resource of many physicians and scientists.”