Break Through Cancer, an organization founded one year ago, has announced $50m USD in grants intended to support promising research projects and encourage collaboration at five noted research centers. The TeamLab structure is designed to maximize interdisciplinary collaboration among researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
According to the organization, the collaboration model will enable researchers to conquer some of the most formidable obstacles that currently stand in the way of a cure. The plan is to use tools like streamlined systems and advanced analytics for data sharing in real time; umbrella contractual agreements that reduce administrative burdens on researchers; and pioneering policies on intellectual property and authorship.
Break Through Cancer is funding four TeamLab-based research projects with this initial investment with the intention of encouraging innovative ideas and new approaches to the clinical challenges associated with glioblastoma, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers.
Tyler Jacks, president of Break Through Cancer, said the organization and its partners are making progress in “reducing the siloes” in research.
"In just one year's time, we have built an expansive and impressive community of leading cancer researchers and physicians who can now work as one to accelerate the pace of discovery,” Jacks said. “This model of radical collaboration will empower many of the brightest minds in cancer research and maximize the capabilities of partner institutions."
Jacks added that the organization plans to develop with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, and technology partners, to further its mission.
"To be part of Break Through Cancer's new model of research collaboration is extremely exciting," said Rebecca Stone, director of the Kelly Gynecologic Oncology Service, associate professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, and a principal investigator for Break Through Cancer's funded research in ovarian cancer. "Break Through Cancer has created a fertile ecosystem for nurturing new ideas and rapidly bringing laboratory discovery to advance cancer care."
Break Through Cancer's initial $50m investment is aimed toward the following research projects for an initial three-year period and will include researchers and physicians from all five partner institutions.
Intercepting Ovarian Cancer
Recent research has found that most (if not all) high-grade, serous ovarian cancer originates as precursor lesions of the fallopian tubes. In addition to characterizing precursor lesions located in the fallopian tubes, the team will develop strategies to expand awareness of and access to safe and effective ways for women to undergo fallopian tube removal as a primary prevention strategy, particularly in women who are done having children and are already undergoing elective abdominal surgeries.
Targeting Minimal Residual Disease (MRD) in Ovarian Cancer
A key factor tied to poor ovarian cancer cure rates is the ability of cancer cells resistant to chemotherapy to persist after frontline treatment. This research team will develop and benchmark the accuracy of new blood biopsy and "second-look" surgical technologies to monitor MRD at high resolution including extensive use of single-cell analysis.
Revolutionizing GBM Drug Development Through Serial Biopsies
This project will demonstrate the safety and feasibility of carefully performed serial biopsies, and assess how promising new therapies directly affect these brain tumors. The objective of the project is to establish a new paradigm of therapy development for GBM. The level of financial support from Break Through Cancer will help clear financial and logistical barriers to converting the vision of longitudinal tumor sampling into a reality.
Conquering KRAS in Pancreatic Cancer in partnership with the Lustgarten Foundation
This team will integrate clinical and laboratory approaches to understand why patients do or do not respond to new KRAS-directed therapies using powerful technologies to deeply investigate biology in preclinical models and in humans. The team will develop pharmaceutical partnerships to accelerate the translation of new KRAS inhibitors into effective drugs for this disease.