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Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center Launches National Cancer Plan Microsite

Man (William Nelson) with grey hair wears a suit and tie and smiles in front of a blurry sign that reads: Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center

William G. Nelson, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins

This month, the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins launched a new microsite dedicated to the National Cancer Plan. Connecting the plan’s goals with Kimmel research and patient care is a key feature of the site because we believe that NCI-Designated Cancer Centers like ours have an important role in the plan’s success. 

As Dr. Elizabeth Jaffee, deputy director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center and chair of the President’s Cancer Panel, said: “Our purpose is to make a difference in patients’ lives.”

Addressing the plan’s goal to detect cancers early, Kimmel researchers developed a molecular test to identify the presence of brain tumors. It measures abnormal genetic material shed by tumors that circulates in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

Typically, brain tumors are assessed through MRI imaging and biopsies. The novel test, called Real-CSF (repetitive element aneuploidy sequencing in CSF), assesses aneuploidy (chromosome copy number alterations found in cancers) in over 350,000 regions of the genome simultaneously. A companion bioinformatics algorithm and machine-learning process allow researchers to identify in as little as 2 milliliters of CSF if cancers are present and what molecular characteristics they demonstrate. According to authors of an article studying the test, “The test is very simple to use, works even on a limited amount of CSF, and is inexpensive relative to many of the other liquid biopsy approaches on the market.”

In addressing the plan’s goal to develop effective treatments, our physician–scientists recently announced the results of a novel multicenter phase 2 NeoCOAST platform trial. It showed patients with stage 1–3 non-small cell lung cancer had better responses when they received drug combinations, durvalumab (Imfinzi) with monalizumab or durvalumab with oleclumab, compared with only durvalumab. Both combinations helped shrink tumors prior to surgery.

It was the first platform trial examining cutting-edge therapies before surgery for lung cancer, illustrating that targeting multiple cancer pathways through therapy may be superior to a single therapy. One of the researchers of the trial results stated, “We’re hopeful that these types of trials will allow us to expedite the development of new treatments for earlier-stage lung cancer.”

The National Cancer Plan is a call to action for each of us to do our part to help prevent more cancers and ensure that every person with cancer lives a full and active life.

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