CTRC oncologist to lead statewide liver cancer trial

SAN ANTONIO (October 24, 2012) – A Cancer Therapy & Research Center oncologist will lead the first study launched by the Statewide Clinical Trials Network of Texas (CTNeT).

Devalingam Mahalingam, M.D., an oncologist at the Cancer Therapy & Research Center at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, is principal investigator on a Phase II study that will evaluate the drug G202 in patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer.

CTNeT is a statewide nonprofit research network established by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas to coordinate research efforts among 18 Texas academic institutions and community-based practices. CTNeT chose the proposal submitted by Dr. Mahalingam based on his experience as principal investigator of G202’s Phase I study, conducted at the CTRC.

“We are excited that one of our exceptional CTRC physicians will be leading the first clinical trial conducted by CTNeT, and especially as it will focus on new opportunities to cure liver cancer,” said Ian M. Thompson Jr., M.D., director of the CTRC. “Liver cancer disproportionately affects San Antonio and South Texas and it is a major focus of the CTRC. With rising rates of this disease in the U.S. as well, this clinical trial and other scientific work targeting this terrible disease at the CTRC will lead the way for our country’s efforts to prevent, detect, and cure liver cancer.”

HCC is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide, and the number of people in the U.S. diagnosed with HCC has been increasing in recent years, particularly among the Hispanic and Asian populations. The multiple sites and patients involved in the study will increase researchers’ ability to evaluate the therapy’s benefits.

“G202 is a prodrug that can be targeted at a specific site in tumors, sparing normal cells, which means it is less toxic for the body overall,” Dr. Mahalingam said.

The drug works by attacking a specific protein called PSMA produced by the new blood vessels forming within a tumor, Dr. Mahalingam said. That also damages the tumor tissue around those blood vessels. Normal liver cells do not express PSMA.

HCC occurs primarily in patients with chronic inflammatory disease of the liver, with most cases developing after a viral hepatitis infection such as hepatitis B and C. However, the obesity epidemic in the United States means a growing number of people have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and researchers expect HCC cases to continue to rise.

“CTNeT has been developed to facilitate the multi-institution collaborations needed to rapidly evaluate promising new therapies for relatively rare types of cancer such as HCC,” said Charles E. Geyer, Jr., M.D., chief medical officer for CTNeT, “as well as identifying small groups of patients with more common cancers whose tumors are driven by critical genetic abnormalities which provide promising new targets for therapies being developed.”

The study will begin enrolling patients within six weeks at up to 10 CTNeT sites throughout Texas. The San Antonio-based biotech company GenSpera will sponsor the trial.

The Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is one of the elite academic cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Designated Cancer Center, and is one of only four in Texas. A leader in developing new drugs to treat cancer, the CTRC Institute for Drug Development (IDD) conducts one of the largest oncology Phase I clinical drug programs in the world, and participates in development of cancer drugs approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. For more information, visit www.ctrc.net.

The Statewide Clinical Trials Network of Texas (CTNeT) is a non-profit oncology research network striving to create a cultural change in the manner in which clinical cancer research is conducted. The organization was established with an infrastructure development grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas and combines the innovative science of Texas’ cancer centers with the expertise and resources of academic and community oncologists throughout the state. The network members share in the vision of improving access for patients throughout Texas to clinical trials of promising new therapies that focus on targeting the genetic and related abnormalities that drive cancer. To learn more about the organization, visit www.ctnet.org.

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