Experimental Therapeutics Center: Initial Accomplishments

The Experimental Therapeutics Center provides the infrastructure for drug discovery and development, from concept through to clinical trials. In an environment that fosters teamwork, it is a program of diverse yet integrated translational research where the most innovative and promising projects receive support. All share the same agenda: to improve the treatment options for patients with cancer. With a generous donation from William H. and Alice Goodwin and the Commonwealth Foundation for Cancer Research, the Experimental Therapeutics Center has achieved the following initiatives:

  • Funding Important Research to Develop Therapies for Cancer

    The ETC funds novel, peer-reviewed, research focused on advancing experimental therapeutics. These projects target a wide variety of solid tumor and hematopoietic malignancies, common cancers as well as “orphan” diseases, for both adult and pediatric patients. More than a dozen clinical investigations and more than three dozen drug discovery and development projects for new small molecule drugs, cellular and immunologic therapies, gene therapies, and new imaging modalities for assessing outcomes receive Experimental Therapeutics Center support. These may include collaborations with investigators from other academic institutions, private industry, and the government.

  • Creation of Clinical Treatment Unit

    The ETC funds the Experimental Therapeutics Clinical Treatment Unit (ETU). This outpatient treatment facility provides the specialized care needed for patients participating in early phase clinical trials. The ETU combines a comfortable setting for patients while experienced staff perform the tests required to meet the protocol's research objectives, such as pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic studies.

  • Drug Development and Trial Monitoring

    The Experimental Therapeutics Center supports core laboratories and services relevant to its mission. These facilities contribute vital information to the discovery, development, and evaluation of prospective new treatments. Some examples are the:

    • Clinical Grade Production Facility, which is a “clean room” to prepare new agents for clinical trials.
    • Analytical Pharmacology Core, to conduct pharmacokinetic analyses during clinical trials and the preclinical studies that may precede trials.
    • Immune Monitoring Facility, which monitors immune responses to new vaccines.
    • Radiochemistry/Cyclotron Core Facility, which develops novel agents linked to radioactive isotopes for diagnosis and treatment.
    • Organic Synthesis Core Facility, which provides chemical synthesis of compounds for drug development.
    • Antitumor Assessment Core, which determines the activity of prospective agents against tumor models in animals.
    • High-Throughput Drug Screening Facility, which identifies new small molecule drug candidates.

Other Functions of the ETC

The ETC organizes regular forums for discussion of cancer biology, drug development, and therapeutic strategies. Research-in-progress meetings, special symposia such as the Drug Discovery and Development Academia/Government/Industry Roundtable, an annual Experimental Therapeutics Center Retreat and meetings with pharmaceutical companies are part of an ongoing program to stimulate discussion about experimental therapeutics. Experts from academia, industry, and government agencies are frequently invited to add their perspectives.

The ETC also seeks to identify the resources essential to advance drug discovery and development. Several new faculty members have been added to fuel our efforts. Some examples are:

  • Luca Cartegni, who is investigating alternative splicing events that play a role in the development and/or maintenance of cancer; the ultimate goal is to develop a means to control such events therapeutically.
  • Gabriela Chiosis, who is studying Hsp90 inhibitors in order to improve the activity and pharmacokinetic properties for this important class of active anticancer agents.
  • David Gin, who synthesizes natural products as anti-cancer drugs and therapeutic vaccines, with a special interest in immune adjuvants that can be used to augment vaccines against cancer or infectious diseases.
  • Yueming Li, who is working towards developing new agents that inhibit a novel class of intramembrane proteases that are associated with cancer.
  • Charles Sawyers, who heads Memorial Hospital's new Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program and studies the causes of both leukemias and solid tumors, such as prostate cancer. Notably, he was involved in the development of imatinib (Gleevec®) and dasatinib (Sprycel®).
  • Derek Tan, who is developing new strategies for diversity-oriented chemical synthesis to generate libraries of potential anticancer compounds.