An investment banker who survived early-stage renal cell cancer is pledging $2.5 million to establish an institute for children whose cancer is not responding to traditional treatment at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.
The Newman-Lakka Institute for Personalized Cancer Care will be the first ever to create a centralized database to analyze and track the outcomes of new cancer therapies as a resource of physicians, according to a statement from the hospital.
Giannoula Lakka Klement, M.D., the scientific director of the Newman-Lakka Institute and Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist at Floating Hospital for Children, told Mass High Tech that while there are thousands of medications available to treat tumors, there has not been detailed information about which patients benefitted from a specific drug, and which did not. While the successes get published, the non-successes do not, she said, and physicians don’t have much information on which treatment don’t work on certain patients.
While the goal of the center is to treat patients rather than develop new drugs, she said the information gathered there will be “extremely helpful” to pharmaceutical companies looking at trials for new drugs.
“I think what many of these companies are discovering is that the current modality of testing is not suitable,” Klement told Mass High Tech. The FDA typically only allows trials of drugs as used in addition to existing, already-approved treatments. As a result, test subjects can die because the combination of drugs is too toxic, although the new drug alone may still work to reduce tumors. Klement said that information to be published by the Institute, based on data from hospitals nationwide as well as a couple in Europe, could be used by pharmaceutical companies to allow testing of certain new drugs along with reduced dosages of the standard therapies.
“Our successes are going to change the way new drugs are approved,” she said.
Charles “CJ” Newman, an investment banker from Phoenix, Ariz., is leading the foundation that has committed to donating money for the creation of the Institute. Diagnosed with early-stage renal cell cancer in 2002, Newman has since focused his philanthropy in the area of cancer research. The information developed by the Newman-Lakka Institute will initially target children, but could also be used to treat rare or recurring tumors in adults as well.
“I know that if I had been diagnosed at a later stage, I would have likely been told that there was little that medicine could do for me,” Newman said in a statement. “The reality is that today, there are tools to treat late-stage cancers – we simply need to identify which treatments work best for which people. We lose so many patients because they think they have run out of options, but the options are already here and available in personalized care.”