News & Information | START In The News

June 3rd, 2010
San Antonio HCB Magazine

START Is Named As One Of Only Five US-Based Sites Included In Merck’s New, Pioneering Collaborative Cancer Trials Network

Merck recently announced the launch of the Merck Oncology Collaborative Trials Network, a pioneering clinical trial network focusing on the development of Merck drug and vaccine candidates being investigated for the treatment and prevention of cancer. The global network, which inlcudes SA Based South Texas Accelerated Research Therapeutics, comprises leading cancer research centers who will partner with Merck to speed the development of innovative treatments for a range of cancers.

START’s clinical director, Anthony Tolcher, MD, said of the new partnership, “We are proud that Merck has selected START to be one of the exclusive number centers for the Onconet clinical innovation in cancer research. Their new discoveries will no doubt help our patients in San Antonio as well as Madrid Spain.”

Cancer is a diverse group of diseases that accounts for 7.4 million deaths (around 13 per cent of all deaths) worldwide every year, making it a leading cause of death globally.(1) According to a recent Institute of Medicine report, about half of collaborative cancer studies are never completed due to cumbersome procedures, bureaucracy and poor coordination.(2) The report suggested that collaborative research approaches could be improved by reducing the number of sites, properly funding research efforts, setting strict deadlines and prioritizing studies based on potential. The Merck Oncology Collaborative Trials Network embodies many of these principles.

"Despite recent advances, there remains an urgent need for effective treatments for cancer, and the pace of traditional drug development often lags far behind the latest science," said Malcolm Moore M.D., head of Medical and Hematological Oncology at Princess Margaret Hospital and a scientist at the Ontario Cancer Institute. "We are proud to participate in this unique network, which will create the access and the infrastructure for coordinated investigation of the latest clinical hypotheses in cancer research. The Merck Oncology Collaborative Trials Network could serve as a blueprint for how industry and research institutions can work together more efficiently and effectively to expedite the delivery of innovative cancer therapies to patients."

Through a rigorous proposal and feedback process, the research sites will lead the design and conduct of Phase 0 to 2a clinical studies of Merck's investigational oncology candidates. Every year, the network will enroll approximately 1,200 patients in 30 to 40 clinical trials. These studies will include investigator and company sponsored trials. Infrastructure to consolidate data, specimen testing results, imaging testing results, and patient outcomes is being developed. This approach will lead to more informed, data-driven, and rapid decision making regarding the efficacy and safety profile of compounds and the utility of biomarkers developed by Merck or its collaborators.

The network currently consists of 15 sites across North America, South America, Europe and Asia as follows:

-- National Cancer Institute of Brazil (INCA), Rio de Janeiro
-- Instituto do Cancer do Estado de Sao Paulo, Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo
-- Princess Margaret Hospital and Ontario Cancer Institute, Toronto
-- Institut Gustave Roussy, Villejuif
-- Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer
-- Seoul National University Hospital, Seoul
-- Yonsei Cancer Center, Severance Hospital, Yonsei University Health System, Seoul
-- Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam
-- Oslo University Hospital, Oslo
-- National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei
United States of America:
-- Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Rochester, MN, Scottsdale, AZ, Jacksonville, FL
-- The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX
-- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York City, NY
--START (South Texas Accelerated Research Therapeutics), San Antonio, TX
-- University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, San Francisco, CA