Cancer researchers testing radical change in drug trials

UC San Francisco's Laura Esserman is taking a leading role in I-Spy 2, an innovative cancer trial that will rotate through up to 12 experimental cancer therapies in an effort to determine if a radical new approach can identify the right population for the right therapy on a much smaller budget.

Esserman and co-leader Don Berry at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center are currently using an adaptive trial design to screen the efficacy of five breast cancer drugs from three different companies--Abbott, Amgen and Pfizer--according to an in-depth feature in the Wall Street Journal. MRIs are used to track tumor response with surgery providing hard evidence of success or failure. "All of a sudden I've taken a five-year learning curve and shortened it to six months," Dr. Esserman tells the WSJ.

Esserman and Berry are out to execute a "knowledge turn," looking for a key technological breakthrough that can radically improve a difficult process. That's particularly needed in late-stage cancer tests, which often end in failure after racking up massive costs.

"The vision is a 300-patient phase III trial instead of a 3,000-patient trial, with better results," Berry tells the Journal. As one drug fails the process, researchers can add another in hopes of identifying winners at an early stage.

- here's the WSJ article