National Comprehensive Cancer Network

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NCCN Receives $4 Million in Oncology Research Funding from GlaxoSmithKline

Carrie Capili, Communications Specialist, Editor

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®) Oncology Research Program (ORP) has been awarded $4 million in the form of two research grants from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to develop studies to scientifically evaluate and define GSK2118436, a BRAF inhibitor, and GSK1120212, a MEK1 and MEK2 inhibitor. Previous research has indicated that BRAF mutations are strong targets for therapies in the treatment of advanced melanoma.

"These two pipeline drugs are of great interest to investigators at NCCN Member Institutions. Both research projects have the potential to drive new breakthroughs in the understanding of both drugs and translating that knowledge into improved treatments for patients with cancer," said Diane Paul, MS, RN, Vice President, NCCN ORP. "We are excited about this opportunity to work with GSK on another research collaboration."

The first phase of the program will involve the establishment of Request for Proposals Development Teams for the two novel inhibitors to evaluate existing data and define the types of studies necessary to further evaluate the activity of both drugs.

GSK2118436 is an investigational drug that is orally bioavailable and inhibits BRAF. Activating mutations in BRAF are present in approximately 50 to 60 percent of melanoma and approximately 8 percent of all cancers. The mutation appears to have a direct role in activating the MAP kinase pathway, which controls processes such as cell proliferation, differentiation, survival, and apoptosis (cell death).

GSK1120212 is also an investigational drug that is orally bioavailable and inhibits MEK. MEK is a key component of the RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK signaling pathway that regulates cell growth. Constant and unregulated activation of this pathway has been implicated in many cancers. MEK 1/2 are thought to play a role in the activation of key signaling pathways that regulate cell growth. In BRAF mutant melanoma, MEK activation is a driver of the disease.

The NCCN ORP draws on the expertise of investigators at NCCN Member Institutions to facilitate all phases of clinical research. This research is made possible by collaborations with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in order to advance therapeutic options for patients with cancer. The NCCN ORP will utilize the grant from GlaxoSmithKline to support investigator-initiated clinical and correlative studies at its NCCN Member Institutions. To date, this successful research model has received more than $34 million in research grants and provided 87 investigators with funding for clinical and correlative trials that have produced numerous publications in peer-reviewed journals.