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Stand Up To Cancer Supported Research Discovers Why Patients Respond to a Life-Saving Melanoma Drug

LOS ANGELES – November 26, 2014 – Work supported by the Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) – Cancer Research Institute (CRI) – Immunology Translational Research Dream Team, launched in 2012 to focus on how the patient’s own immune system can be harnessed to treat some cancers have pioneered an approach to predict why advanced melanoma patients respond to a new life-saving melanoma drug. This new drug, pembrolizumab (Keytruda), was recently approved by the FDA. These findings are reported in Nature online November 26, 2014, ahead of print in the journal.

Over a two-year study, researchers including Dr. Antoni Ribas of UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center and co-leader of the CRI-SU2C Immunology Dream studied 46 patients with advanced melanoma treated with pembrolizumab. These patients had tumor biopsies before and during treatment. The researchers analyzed those biopsies and classified them according to whether the patient responded or not to pembrolizumab. The study then used the biopsy findings to predict the likelihood whether patients would likely to respond to this treatment

According to the press release issued by UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, a protein known as PD-1 puts the immune system’s brakes on, preventing T cells from attacking cancer cells. Pembrolizumab removes the brake lines, freeing up the immune system to kill cancer cells. Keytruda was the first PD-1 immunotherapy drug approved by the FDA in September 2014.

“The work of Dr. Ribas, his colleagues and the SU2C-CRI Immunology Dream Team is so important, bringing tangible benefits to patients struggling with advanced melanoma and providing the means to assess why some patients are responsive to this breakthrough drug,” said Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D., chairperson SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee, and MIT Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. “Not only has this research validated a pathway to determine which patients may be responsive to pembrolizumab, we anticipate it will significantly inform development of better drug combinations that are more effective, less costly and with fewer side effects for even more patients with melanoma and other cancers.”

In addition to support from Stand Up to Cancer, this research was supported by the National Institute of Health and the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center through philanthropy and other sources.

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About Stand Up To Cancer
Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) raises funds to accelerate the pace of research to get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives now. SU2C, a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, was established in 2008 by film and media leaders who utilize the industry’s resources to engage the public in supporting a new, collaborative model of cancer research, and to increase awareness about progress being made in the fight against the disease. As SU2C’s scientific partner, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and a Scientific Advisory Committee led by Nobel Laureate Phillip A. Sharp, PhD, conduct rigorous, competitive review processes to identify the best research proposals to recommend for funding, oversee grants administration, and provide expert review of research progress.

Current members of the SU2C Council of Founders and Advisors (CFA) include Katie Couric, Sherry Lansing, Kathleen Lobb, Lisa Paulsen, Rusty Robertson, Sue Schwartz, Pamela Oas Williams, and Ellen Ziffren. All current members of the CFA were co-producers of the 2012 and 2014 televised specials. The late co-founder Laura Ziskin executive produced both the Sept. 5, 2008, and Sept. 10, 2010, broadcasts. SU2C was formally launched on May 27, 2008. Sung Poblete, PhD, RN, has served as SU2C’s president and CEO since 2011.

For more information on Stand Up To Cancer visit http://www.standup2cancer.org.

 

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