Baylor Health System is expected to open its innovative clinical trials center this month, doubling its capacity to conduct experiments.
The center will be at Baylor T. Boone Pickens Cancer Hospital and Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center, and will include Phase I, Phase II and Phase III clinical trials.
Among the Baylor-initiated trials underway or planned at the center:
- Center Medical Director Carlos Becerra, MD, is designing a study to “manicure DNA” with a medication, making it easier for chemotherapy to reach the cancer cells. He is working with world-renowned cancer expert Daniel Von Hoff, MD.
- A trial will use aggressive upfront chemotherapy to make unresectable pancreatic tumors resectable.
- In partnership with the Baylor Institute for Metabolic Disease, oncologist Alan Miller, MD, is working to develop a new, more sensitive biomarker test to see if all leukemia is gone after treatment. Neuro-oncology specialist Karen Fink, MD, is doing the same with a type of brain cancer.
- Blood and marrow transplantation specialist Luis Pineiro, MD, is working on a bone marrow transplant study for patients who do not have a match. It would allow patients needing a transplant to use almost any family member as a donor by genetically modifying the donor’s lymphocyte t-cells.
Among the studies is a new Phase III trial by Baylor oncologist C. Lance Cowey and Texas Oncology. It combines two immunotherapy drugs—nivolumab and ipilimumab—to treat patients with advanced melanoma.
The study was preceded by one published in the New England Journal of Medicine in May that found that drug combination shrank tumors by more than 80 percent.
Cowey said the Phase III trial would be conducted at multiple sites worldwide and include about 1,000 patients—including an estimated 20-30 in Dallas.
“Melanoma is a very aggressive cancer with a dismal prognosis. Until the last couple of years, we didn’t have drugs that could improve the survival rate. But now we have a new generation of treatments we haven’t had before. Most of those are still in clinical trials,” he said.
Becerra said, “By exploring underpinnings (biology of the cancer), we can target tumor cells better. We are looking at trials that control tumors better than what we have in the past.”
He said the center would give local patients access to treatments that they would not have had otherwise if they enroll in the trials.
Steve Jacob is editor at large of D Healthcare Daily and author of the book Health Care in 2020: Where Uncertain Reform, Bad Habits, Too Few Doctors and Skyrocketing Costs Are Taking Us. He can be reached at [email protected]