WIN 2012, June 28-29, Paris, France
Building international collaborations and the WINTHER trial
Dr Oliver Bogler – MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, USA
We are here in Paris at WIN 2012 with Professor Oliver Bogler. You are from MD Anderson, and you are running the Global Academic Programme. Could you discuss a little bit about this?
Sure, you know, MD Anderson is one of the largest cancer centres in the United States but we still recognise that we need to collaborate across the globe in order to make an impact on cancer. So about ten years ago under Dr Mendelsohn’s leadership we initiated this group called Global Academic Programmes and we, on behalf of our faculty, build international collaborations with leading cancer institutions across the world. We currently have about 25 sister institutions, as we call them, and one of them is right here in Paris, the Institut Gustave Roussy.
And this is basically where WIN started?
That’s right. The WIN Consortium was a joint foundation of MD Anderson and the Institut Gustave Roussy with Dr Mendelsohn, still the current chair of the consortium, being involved and at the time Thomas Tursz who was the Director of IGR, now it’s Dr Eggermont, and the leadership continues. And, of course, Vladimir Lazar was the prime mover initially. But yes, the groups, the oncologists in both institutions spent quite a lot of time together in meetings and conferences and the concept of developing a group that would focus on personalised cancer therapy grew out of that and then Vladimir took the ball and ran, as we say in the United States.
So this meeting is on biomarkers and one of the big things that is coming out of WIN is that you have funding from the European Commission to do some biomarker research, can you discuss this?
Yes, this is a trial called WINTHER, for WIN therapeutics, and it is a biomarker early phase trial that is going to run in four institutions and the goal is to do some deep analysis of the molecular characteristics of tumours and then, whenever possible, fit the right treatment to the patient, to the tumour, and see what the impact is. So we are very excited, it is our first trial that we have come together to form and road test our consortium and the mechanisms for scientific evaluation and improvement and now funding. So our investigators have put this proposal together, got a fantastic score from the European framework funding mechanism so the light is green now and we are pushing ahead quickly.
So you are going to look for, it is going to be a proof of concept whether you can identify profiles or…?
Yes, the goal is to use a variety of molecular approaches to quickly characterise the tumours and to run. I think the goal is to accrue 50 patients in each of four centres, so about 200 patients overall, then, depending on what the molecular analysis like sequencing and other kinds of molecular analysis show, to bring the right treatment. So if there is a drug that is particularly suited to, say, a specific mutation of a gene that’s what will be given. And then the idea is to compare the impact of that against non-personalised therapy.
And you also have the backing of the pharma partners that if something comes out they will provide?
Well right now our primary industrial partners are what we call technology partners and they are more in the space of developing and supporting the molecular testing. So currently there are no pharma as formal members of our consortium, though that is being contemplated. So right now we are focusing more on the marker space. We have got actually two other projects that are going to be coming out fairly quickly. One is what we call the Universal Biomarker Project and it is focused on a larger scale characterisation of tumours using molecular markers and we have got some great support from Agilent and from LEC Technologies for these two projects to help us. You know, the testing can be very complicated, and expensive as well, and then to get it right and to do it right in multiple centres it is a challenge, so that is where the technology partners come in.
And I know you are interested in attracting more academic centres to WIN at the moment. At the moment I think maybe there are ten?
There are about fifteen or so I think. Absolutely, we are interested in that and people have been watching what we are doing and they have been waiting to see what concrete advances come out. We are very excited about these projects I mentioned and I forgot to mention a moment ago that GE Healthcare is also supporting these efforts with some imaging agents. But now I think that we are going to see some real progress, I think the level of excitement will rise. We’ve had this very fantastic meeting here, this is our third or fourth year we are doing this, third I think, and it has attracted some of the best thinkers in these fields. So academically we are getting a lot of attention and I think this time next year we will have a significant interest from additional academic centres. We are particularly excited about cancer centres from Europe and the United States wishing to join but everybody is welcome to apply and join us.
And the fact that you have this European grant, which is actually quite a lot of money, gives you a lot of kudos, the fact that you got such a good score.
That’s right, no that is exactly right. I think that’s our first demonstrable externally reviewed achievement that we can show, and it suggests that the people who reviewed it also have faith in our vision of how we can make an impact on cancer.
Thank you so much.