News & Information | START In The News

May 18th, 2016

San Antonio based START expands to Taipei

SA-based START expands operations, opens comprehensive Phase I oncology clinical trials program in Taiwan

START Taipei marks the organization's sixth Phase I center and its second Asia-based site, late stage cancer patients in Taiwan now will have access to the latest, early phase anti-cancer therapies

SAN ANTONIO, TX (May 18, 2016) - Just six months after opening its second US site, San Antonio-based START today announced the opening of a comprehensive Phase I oncology clinical trials program in Taiwan. START Taipei is the sixth in START's global network of Phase I clinical research sites, which currently includes two centers in Madrid, one in Shanghai, one in Grand Rapids Michigan and START's flagship site in San Antonio, which opened in 2007. START Taipei will be located in Taipei Medical University, which is ranked as one of the world's Top 100 universities at which to study medicine, according to the QS World University Rankings.

Taipei is Taiwan's largest city, located at the northernmost tip of Taiwan, with an estimated population of around 8 million people.

START Taipei will be able to treat up to 30 patients in its first year and expects to treat its first patient this May.

Today, more than 50 percent of cancer patients can be cured with conventional treatments - that is, therapies with a proven response rate. However, there are many patients who do not respond to standard treatment and may be eligible for participation in a Phase I clinical trial which makes available experimental therapies not offered in any other setting.

With centers located around the globe, START conducts the world's largest Phase I medical oncology program, putting more than 600 patients per year on Phase I trials. Patients travel from all over the world to START centers to participate in one or more of the organization's Phase I drug trials.

"Our mission is to accelerate the development of new therapies by taking the unique skills and unequalled expertise that has been cultivated at START and expanding it to other strategic locations around the world," said Dr. Anthony Tolcher, clinical director for START. "STARTs philosophy and model for success is to bring early clinical trials to the communities where patients live. Taipei Medical University has excellent investigators that currently do not have access to the best new agents for the treatment of cancer, making this a great partnership for START and TMU and can transform early clinical trials in Asia."

"TMU welcomes the opportunity to work together with START investigators in accelerating the development of treatment modalities in the world's largest Phase I clinical trial program," said TMU President Yun Yen.

START Taipei will be led by researchers Dr. Her-Shyong Shiah and Wei-hong Cheng.
"In terms of drug development, I believe START Taipei will become the most important site to assist both biotech companies and big pharma in accessing Asian markets," said Dr. Shiah. "In terms of patients, I believe START Taipei will bring our patients the enormous benefits of new anti-cancer treatment from pharmaceutical and biotech innovators."
Cancer is a global problem and will be solved only by an integrated global research strategy.
START's model of locating Phase I centers in strategic locations around the globe allows for a profoundly different approach to cancer research in that it uses all 24 hours of the clock.  When one center closes for the day, another one is just beginning the day.  This nonstop approach results in faster completion of Phase I clinical research and also makes the newest Phase I drugs available to end stage cancer patients who live in places where there is limited access to the newest anticancer drugs. 

Like its predecessors, START Madrid, START Shanghai, and START Midwest, START Taipei will be fully representative of the flagship program in San Antonio, following the same exceptional standard operating procedures and quality controls innovated by START.

START's accelerated model of global Phase I research helps drugs get to market faster

A recent example of START's role in helping get critical anticancer medicines to market faster is the drug Keytruda® (pembrolizumab), a medicine used to treat melanoma or lung cancer by working with the body's immune system.

In August, former President Jimmy Carter confirmed that he had been diagnosed with melanoma and that the cancer had spread to his brain. Doctors said that the main drug used to treat the former president is Keytruda, a new class of cancer drugs labeled as "immunotherapy agents" which work by using the body's own immune system to fight the cancer. Keytruda is considered a "game changer" in treating melanoma and was tested first at START. Keytruda has been approved by the FDA for use in treating both melanoma and lung cancer.

START's researchers are among the rare individuals who can claim a direct, hands-on involvement with the clinical development of 25 anticancer drugs that, in the past 21 years, have obtained FDA approval and are now considered a part of standard of care.

These drugs include Navelbine (Vinorelbine®) Mitoxantrone (Novantrone®) Irinotecan (Camptosar®), Gefitinib (Iressa®), Docetaxel (Taxotere®), Gemcitabine (Gemzar®), Topotecan (Hycamtin®), Panitumumab (Vectibix®), Vorinostat (Zolinza®), Sorafenib (Nexavar®), Temsirolimus (Torisel®), Ixabepilone (Ixempra®), Bortezomib (Velcade®),  Pemetrexed Disodium (ALIMTA®), Erlotinib (Tarceva®), Trastuzamab (Herceptin®), Lapatinib (Tykerb®), Cabazitaxel (Jevtana®), Eribulin (Halaven®), Abiraterone Acetate (Zytiga®), Cetuximab (Erbitux®), Carfilzomib (Kyprolis®), Regorafenib (Stivarga®), Ziv-Aflibercept (Zaltrap®) Pembrolizumab (Keytruda®).