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The University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), partner with UPMC CancerCenter, secured a highly prestigious contract from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to perform preclinical research crucial to the development of new cancer drugs. This commitment could bring up to $10 million in research projects to UPCI over the next five years.
The contract cements UPCI’s role in all five stages of NCI’s drug development process, with UPCI researchers now holding funding mechanisms in drug screening, preclinical research, and Phase I, II and III clinical trials.
“It is exceedingly rare for an academic cancer institute to have funding in every one of these NCI drug development stages,” said Nancy E. Davidson, MD, director of UPCI. “By being involved in every stage of NCI drug development, UPCI is able to truly consider and understand each part, bringing extra knowledge and value to every cancer drug research project we perform. Contracts like this are a crucial part of how we get the best therapies to our patients.”
Julie Eiseman, PhD, DABT, professor of pharmacology and chemical biology, and Jan Beumer, PharmD, PhD, DABT, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences and medicine, both of UPCI, are co-principal investigators on the new NCI preclinical research contract. They also hold a previous NCI preclinical contract, which will conclude next year.
Under the new preclinical contract, UPCI will perform the research necessary to collect drug pharmacology data and determine the most efficacious routes and doses of proposed cancer drugs so that they can be used in human clinical trials.
“What sets UPCI apart is that we provide an added value by being able to think outside the box,” said Dr. Beumer, who also is co-principal investigator on the NCI phase I clinical trial grant at UPCI. “We can connect these preclinical studies with the clinical trials that will follow and make suggestions to help both phases be as efficient and effective as possible.”
The researchers do not yet know specifically what potential drugs they’ll be investigating or which cancers they’ll ultimately be intended to tackle.
“That’s what we help to determine,” said. Dr. Eiseman. “In the past we’ve evaluated potential drugs for use in cancers of the colon, breast, pancreas, and head and neck, among others. It’s a team effort. No one person could develop these therapies alone.”
The Contract Number is HHSN2612016000221; the NCI Control Number is N02CM-2016-00022.