Shaping Personalized Cancer Therapies

Melinda Bachini

“For every patient that is diagnosed, all they need to hear about is the patient who did well. When I tell people that I'm a nine-year, stage 4 survivor of Cholangiocarcinoma it gives them hope to know that research is being done and progress is being made. With all of the new targeted therapies and immunotherapies being done, I feel like we have more hope for all diseases than we've ever had before.”

— Melinda Bachini
Cancer cells in culture from human connective tissue.
Credit: National Cancer Institute
Jeffrey S. Abrams, M.D.

Nearly everyone has a family member or friend affected by cancer. Fortunately, recent advances in immunotherapies have shown promising responses in certain cancer types. What researchers still need to uncover is how and when to best pair an immunotherapy to a specific patient.

In 2018, the FNIH, NIH, FDA and 12 pharmaceutical companies continued their work to better understand how immunotherapies are effective in some patients and to accelerate the development of new treatments through the Partnership for Accelerating Cancer Therapies (PACT). Leveraging their collective expertise, capabilities and resources, the partners set out to identify and develop robust, standardized biomarkers and tests that will support the selection and clinical testing of immune-oncology and combination therapies for patients. These biomarkers and tests will be shared with the broader research community so that they can be used effectively in clinical trials conducted anywhere in the cancer field.

“The PACT team has worked across barriers to bring different people together to do something that would be difficult to do alone,” explained Jeffrey Abrams, M.D., Director, Clinical Research, Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis, and Associate Director of the Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program, National Cancer Institute (NCI), retired. “The challenge of our time will be to make immunotherapies work even better for individual patients to generate the rapid progress that we'd all like to see.”