This month, the Baylor Health System (BHS) will open a new clinical trials center, which will double the institution’s capacity to conduct experiments. The center, which will be formally located at Baylor T. Boone Pickens Cancer Hospital and Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center, will include Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III clinical trials.
Of particular interest is the degree to which the launch of the new clinical trials center is giving rise to an increase in BHS’s cancer research. A wide range of new cancer-related, Baylor-initiated research will be underway at the new center in earnest, such as a study led by Center Medical Director Carlos Becerra, MD, who is currently designing a study to “manicure DNA” with medication that will facilitate the process of chemotherapy to reach cancer cells in the body. Dr. Becerra is working with Daniel Von Hoff, MD, the world-renowned cancer researcher, on this project.
Other cancer-related clinical research projects include a trial that will leverage aggressive upfront chemotherapy to make unresectable pancreatic tumors resectable; a better-focused biomarker test to determine if all leukemia has been eradicated after treatment, which is being conducted in partnership with the Baylor Institute for Metabolic Disease and oncologist Alan Miller, MD; a similar study being conducted by neuro-oncology specialist Karen Fink, MD for brain cancer; and a bone marrow transplant study by blood and marrow transplantation specialist Luis Pineiro, MD, which if successful would enable virtually any family member of a cancer patient to be matched through a process that would genetically modify the donor’s lymphocyte t-cells.
Perhaps one of more high-profile clinical trials planned for the new center, however, is Baylor oncologist C. Lance Cowey and Texas Oncology’s Phase III trial that will test the combination of two immunotherapy nivolumab and ipilimumab drugs, which are currently used to treat patients with advanced melanoma. A previous study of the same type, which was presented in the New England Journal of Medicine back in May, demonstrated the combination of the two therapies reduced tumor size by 80 percent. Dr. Cowey’s new Phase III study will involve 1,000 test subjects at multiple research sites around the world, with 20-30 in Dallas.