National Comprehensive Cancer Network

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Combination Cancer Therapy is Focus of $1M Merck Research Grant Received by NCCN


NCCN has been awarded a $1M research grant from Merck & Co, Inc., that will support research of the anti-cancer agent vorinostat (Zolinza®). Vorinostat is currently used to treat progressive, persistent, or recurrent cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. This research grant will fund studies to explore the efficacy of vorinostat in combination with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy in selected locally advanced non-metastatic cancers including non-small cell lung cancer, head and neck cancer, pancreatic adenocarcinoma, and brain metastases from a solid tumor with an emphasis on lung cancer.


December 1, 2008

FORT WASHINGTON, PA — The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recently received a $1M research grant from Merck & Co., Inc. to fund clinical trials focusing on innovative combinations of vorinostat (Zolinza®, Merck & Co., Inc.) with radiation/chemoradiation preferentially for patients with selected locally advanced non-metastatic cancers and areas of unmet medical need.

Vorinostat is currently used for the treatment of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma when the disease persists, worsens, or returns during or after treatment with other systemic therapies. In preclinical studies, vorinostat has shown activity in a wide range of cancers and shows particular promise when used in combination with chemotherapy and other targeted anti-cancer agents.

“A major part of our mission at NCCN is to improve cancer care by studying and evaluating new and promising treatments to determine their full potential,” says

William T. McGivney, PhD, Chief Executive Officer, NCCN. “Research grants such as this one from Merck advance medical research, but more importantly, support work that may translate into improvements in both survival and quality of life for patients with cancer.”

The current research grant will fund research led by NCCN Member Institutions focusing on combinations of vorinostat in selected locally advanced non-metastatic cancers including non-small cell lung cancer, head and neck cancer, pancreatic adenocarcinoma, and brain metastases from a solid tumor with an emphasis on lung cancer.

Vorinostat is classified as a Histone Deacetylase (HDAC) Inhibitor. Histone Deacetylases are enzymes that regulate expression of genes and are inappropriately activated in many cancers. It is believed that by inhibiting HDAC enzymes, vorinostat alters the expression of several important genes and proteins resulting in killing or impeding the growth of cancer cells.

“Vorinostat has the potential to preferentially enhance the killing of tumor cells induced by radiation therapy,” says Jose Garcia-Vargas, BMSc, MD, DMRT, Senior Medical Director, Oncology Clinical Research, Merck Research Laboratories. “We hope that the clinical studies led by NCCN Member Institutions will contribute to further development of therapies that lead to improved local disease control and improve patient outcomes with radiation treatments.”

The NCCN Oncology Research Program (ORP) facilitates all phases of clinical research by identifying clinical investigators and initiating trials at NCCN Member Institutions. The ORP draws on the expertise of investigators at 21 of the world’s leading cancer centers and establishes collaborations with pharmaceutical and biotech companies in order to advance therapeutic options for patients with cancer.

About the National Comprehensive Cancer Network

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®), a not-for-profit alliance of 25 of the world's leading cancer centers, is dedicated to improving the quality and effectiveness of care provided to patients with cancer. Through the leadership and expertise of clinical professionals at NCCN Member Institutions, NCCN develops resources that present valuable information to the numerous stakeholders in the health care delivery system. As the arbiter of high-quality cancer care, NCCN promotes the importance of continuous quality improvement and recognizes the significance of creating clinical practice guidelines appropriate for use by patients, clinicians, and other health care decision-makers. The primary goal of all NCCN initiatives is to improve the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of oncology practice so patients can live better lives. For more information, visit NCCN.org.

The NCCN Member Institutions are:

  • Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center at The Nebraska Medical Center
  • City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center
    Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center
  • Duke Cancer Institute
  • Fox Chase Cancer Center
  • Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah
  • Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center / Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
  • The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins
  • Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University
  • Mayo Clinic Cancer Center
  • Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • Moffitt Cancer Center
  • The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute
  • Roswell Park Cancer Institute
  • Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine
  • St. Jude Children's Research Hospital/The University of Tennessee Health Science Center
  • Stanford Cancer Institute
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center
  • UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • University of Colorado Cancer Center
  • University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center
  • Yale Cancer Center/Smilow Cancer Hospital