Funded by the 2015 Virginia Vine
“The Commonwealth Crushes Cancer” event
The promise of cancer therapies that target the mutationally activated “drivers” of malignant behavior is that highly selective drugs can be developed that will be effective with minimal side effects. However, that promise has not been achieved because most cancers rapidly develop resistance to these targeted therapies. Recent experience with the leukemias and lymphomas that respond to the drug ibrutinib provide a sobering example of both the successes and disappointments of these targeted approaches. Whereas many patients with malignancies of B-cells (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL) or Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL)) show a beneficial response to treatment with ibrutinib, the responses are generally incomplete and often are not durable. The goal of the collaborative research proposal from UVA and VCU is to elucidate the important mechanisms of intrinsic and adaptive resistance to therapies for B-cell malignancies, and use this understanding to develop RATIONAL combinations of drugs that target both the driver of malignancy and the resistance mechanisms. The two groups have over the past few years taken complementary approaches to tackling this problem, and some of these discoveries are now entering clinical trial. The UVA and VCU groups will utilize materials from these clinical trials, as well as preclinical models and patient samples to develop tools to match patients with the most appropriate drug combinations, and to develop additional combinations of targeted therapies that will have deeper and more long-lasting benefits.