The NCI at Frederick has about 3,000 government and contractor employees with a wide range
of expertise in basic, translational, and preclinical research and development in
cancer and AIDS.
We conduct basic research into the underlying cause of cancers, and we develop and
deploy advanced technologies in such areas as genomics, proteomics, high-performance
biomedical computing, nanotechnology, mouse models of human cancer, information
systems technology, cGMP biopharmaceutical development, and clinical trials management.
Scientists recently discovered a set of T-cells in the immune system that is particularly
effective in killing kidney cancer cells. The discovery of this activity in CD4(+)
T-cells suggest a new therapeutic strategy against kidney cancer. The researchers
are now exploring clinical applications.
A monoclonal antibody shown to be effective against high-risk neuroblastoma, a cancer
of nerve tissue, is being manufactured temporarily by the National Cancer Institute
at Frederick (NCI at Frederick) as a bridge to commercialization. Neuroblastoma is
a relatively rare cancer, but one of the most common in children. NCI at Frederick,
a U.S. national laboratory, is meeting an immediate need for the monoclonal antibody,
known as chimeric 14.18 (ch14.18) through the NCI’s Biopharmaceutical Development
Program (BDP), which is operated by the NCI contractor Leidos. Meanwhile,
the process for making ch14.18 is being transitioned to a commercial pharmaceutical
manufacturer, United Therapeutics Corp., under an NCI Cooperative Research and Development
Researchers studying the origins of acute myeloid leukemia, a common cancer in adults,
have demonstrated a link between a tumor suppressor gene (p15INK4b) and an over-proliferation
of white blood cells (myeloid cells). The research suggests that the gene does play
a role in development of the disease, but cannot cause the disease by itself. Researchers
are also looking at other genes that might also be involved in causing acute myeloid
leukemia and evaluating each of the genes as a possible target for therapy.
NCI at Frederick’s nanotechnology researchers have worked with Nanospectra Biosciences
Inc.’s AuroShell and CytImmune Sciences AurImune. AuroShell is a gold-coated nanoshell
that absorbs near-infrared laser light to thermally destroy tumors. AurImune is
nano-sized gold bound to tumor necrosis factor (TNF). TNF is an exceptionally potent
chemotherapeutic that was tested in clinical trials in the 1990s, but had to be
discontinued due to severe adverse side effects. In a recent Phase I clinical trial
of AurImune, three times what had previously been a lethal dose of TNF was given
to patients with almost no ill effects – illustrating how nanotech formulations
can greatly reduce the toxicity of chemotherapeutics.
Studies suggest that not all tumor cells can act as the seeds of new tumors. One
of cancer’s biggest threats is the ability to metastasize, to spread from its original
location to other locations in the body. Researchers studying prostate cancer have
isolated a set of cells that appear to be the seeds, or stem cells, of the tumor.
One treatment strategy might be to target these particular cell types with the hope
of containing the disease to the original location, making it less of a threat and
easier to treat.
NCI at Frederick scientists participated in the first phase 0 clinical trial of a drug
in cancer treatment. The approach is intended to help cut the cost of developing
new cancer drugs by doing a very early test run before beginning conventional clinical
trials. The goal is to give a low dose of a new drug to a small number of patients
to determine if the drug affects its target and is well-tolerated. The first phase
0 trial was a success. It involved 13 patients with advanced cancers who received
a low dose of the drug, ABT-888. The drug performed well and subsequently entered
Phase I clinical trials for Food and Drug Administration approval.