Amgen, Celgene and the World's Richest Doctor and More Team Up for Moonshot Cancer Trials

Amgen, Celgene and the World's Richest Doctor and More Team Up for Moonshot Cancer Trials
January 12, 2016
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

Billionaire physician and entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong has organized a coalition of companies, academics, payers and oncologists to launch The National Immunotherapy Coalition (NIC) and The Cancer MoonShot 2020.

The focus of the coalition and the MoonShot is to develop and test combination therapies for various forms of cancers. Increasingly, drug makers are finding that two, three or more combinations of drugs used together are proving more effective in treating cancer.

Soon-Shiong runs NantWorks and NantKwest , which will be part of the coalition, as well as Celgene and Amgen , Merck KgaA , and others. Etubics, Altor Bioscience, Precision Biologics, designated National Cancer Institute (NCI) cancer centers, and community oncologists will be part of the NIC. In addition, the NIC will collaborate with Independence Blue Cross and Bank of America .

“The key contribution here is the ability to run combination studies with drugs from multiple pharma companies in a rapid manner,” said Manuel Hidalgo, clinical director of the Cancer Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, to BloombergBusiness. “Combination studies with unapproved drugs from different pharma companies are not easy to do, and we want to be able to combine three to four drugs, not just two.”

Coalition will have potential access to over 60 novel and approved cancer drugs. The NIC plans to design, initiate and finish randomized clinical trials in up to 20 tumor types in cancers of all stages in 20,000 patients by the year 2020. That is the essential mission of The Cancer MoonShot 2020.

The QUILT Program, which stands for Quantitative Integrative Lifelong Trial program, is, according to an NIC statement, “designed to harness and orchestrate all the elements of the immune system (including dendritic cell, T cell and NK cell therapies) by testing novel combinations of vaccines, cell-based immunotherapy, metronomic chemotherapy, low dose radiotherapy and immunomodulators—including check point inhibitors—in patients who have undergone next generation whole genome, transcriptome and quantitative proteomic analysis, with the goal of achieving durable, long-lasting remission for patients with cancer.”

These will focus on Phase I and II clinical trials and also expects to enroll 20,000 patients by 2020. The tumor types, of which there are 20, will include breast, lung, prostate, ovarian, brain, head and neck, multiple myeloma, sarcoma, and pancreatic cancer.

“There are unique times in history when events and advancements in technology converge to elicit a quantum leap in medical care,” said Soon-Shiong in a statement. “This is not only a unique time, but also a unique inflection point in the history of cancer. The era of immunotherapy has taken the oncology world by storm. For the first time in 40 years, there is a glimmer that we may be able to win this war against cancer.”

Independence Blue Cross’s role will be to cover patient costs for the clinical trials, as well as the cost of genomic sequencing to be performed by NantHealth, another one of Soon-Shiong’s companies.

“The insurance coverage of whole genome transcriptomic tests in patients receiving immunotherapy by Independence Blue Cross is a landmark milestone in moving precision medicine in oncology from the bench to the bedside,” said Soon-Shiong in a statement. “Independence Blue Cross has taken the visionary lead to cover next generation sequencing. We are in discussions with the rest of the insurance industry, including Blue Cross on a national basis to encourage the industry to follow Independence’s lead.”

The initial meeting of the Cancer MoonShot 2020 Program was hosted by Vice President Joseph Biden on Dec. 1, 2015 at his Naval Observatory residence in Washington DC. The meeting was attended by Soon-Shiong, and representatives and leaders from Independence Blue Cross and Bank of America, Allscripts and Blackberry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Johns Hopkins University, University of Miami, University of Utah, Tufts Cancer Center and the John P Murtha Cancer Center at Walter Reed, as well as others.

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