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Ludwig Cancer Research and the Cancer Research Institute evaluate immunotherapeutic strategies for brain cancer and other types of solid tumors

Jul 8, 2015

July 8, 2015, New York – Ludwig Cancer Research (Ludwig) and the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) have launched clinical trials evaluating an immunotherapy for the treatment of the brain cancer glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), and a combination of immunotherapies for a variety of solid tumors.

The trials are being conducted through the CVC Clinical Trials Network in collaboration with MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca. The CVC Clinical Trials Network — jointly managed by Ludwig and CRI — is a coordinated global network of basic and clinical immunologists with expertise in devising and developing immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer. The CVC Clinical Trials Network is led by Jedd Wolchok, Ludwig member and director of the Ludwig Collaborative Laboratory at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, as well as associate director of the CRI Scientific Advisory Council.

The GBM trial is a nonrandomized, multicenter Phase 2 trial testing the effects of MedImmune’s checkpoint blockade antibody durvalumab (MEDI4736) in patients with GBM, which is the most aggressive and deadly type of adult brain cancer. The study will be conducted using three cohorts of patients – newly diagnosed, recurrent patients and those with tumors which have become unresponsive to standard treatment of care.

“GBM is an inevitably lethal cancer that has so far eluded every therapy in the pharmaceutical arsenal,” said Jonathan Skipper, Ludwig’s executive director of technology development. “We are hopeful that adding a promising immunotherapy to the treatment regimen for this brain cancer will yield significant benefits for patients who today have a median life expectancy of roughly 15 months, even with the best treatment available.”

Durvalumab is an investigational human monoclonal antibody directed against programmed cell death ligand 1 (PD-L1). Signals from PD-L1 help tumors avoid detection by the immune system. Durvalumab  blocks these signals, countering the tumor’s immune-evading tactics. The antibody belongs to an emerging class of immunotherapies commonly referred to as checkpoint inhibitors because they remove checks the body places on immune activation.

“Checkpoint inhibitors have deservedly stirred considerable excitement in the oncology community as their application yields notable results against a growing variety of cancers,” said Adam Kolom, managing director of CRI’s venture fund and Clinical Accelerator, which organizes and provides philanthropic funding and clinical resources for this and other promising immunotherapy trials. “This will be the first time the immunotherapeutic agent will be tested against this difficult-to-treat cancer, and its outcomes are eagerly anticipated by the GBM patient community.”

The other trial, which Ludwig and CRI launched in 2013, is a Phase 1 nonrandomized multicenter trial evaluating the combination of durvalumab with another checkpoint blockade therapy (tremelimumab, anti-CTLA-4) for the treatment of a variety of advanced solid tumors including ovarian cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, colorectal cancer, head and neck cancer, cervical cancer and kidney cancer.

Both clinical trials, which are now under way, are part of a larger clinical research program supported by Ludwig and CRI to speed the evaluation of novel cancer immunotherapies, alone or in combination with other cancer drugs. All of the studies will include collection of genetic and immunologic data derived from clinical samples obtained from patients. Such information will provide clues to the impact of the evaluated therapies and suggest refined or new strategies for treating cancer.

About Cancer Research Institute

The Cancer Research Institute (CRI), established in 1953, is the world’s only nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to transforming cancer patient care by advancing scientific efforts to develop new and effective immune system-based strategies to prevent, diagnose, treat, and eventually cure all cancers. Guided by a world-renowned Scientific Advisory Council that includes three Nobel laureates and 27 members of the National Academy of Sciences, CRI has invested $282 million in support of research conducted by immunologists and tumor immunologists at the world’s leading medical centers and universities, and has contributed to many of the key scientific advances that demonstrate the potential for immunotherapy to change the face of cancer treatment. To learn more, go to www.cancerresearch.org.

About Ludwig Cancer Research

Ludwig Cancer Research is an international collaborative network of acclaimed scientists that has pioneered cancer research and landmark discovery for more than 40 years. Ludwig combines basic science with the ability to translate its discoveries and conduct clinical trials to accelerate the development of new cancer diagnostics and therapies. Since 1971, Ludwig has invested more than $2.5 billion in life-changing science through the not-for-profit Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and the six U.S.-based Ludwig Centers.