In a collaborative effort to support and advance innovative research on Tumor Treating Fields (TTFields) — a therapy that uses electric fields to promote cell death — the oncology company Novocure and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will award four inaugural grants.
A recent Phase 2 pilot clinical trial (NCT02244502) evaluated the therapy and showed that adding it to Taxol (paclitaxel) significantly slowed disease progression in recurrent ovarian cancer patients.
Grant categories include the two-year, $250,000 AACR-Novocure Tumor Treating Fields Research Grant; the three-year, $225,000 AACR-Novocure Career Development Award For Tumor Treating Fields Research Grant; the two-year, $120,000 AACR-Novocure Tumor Treating Fields Research Fellowship, and the one-year, $25,000 AACR-Novocure Discovery Grant.
The grant terms begin July 1. Proposals must emphasize preclinical applications of TTF in cancer, and may be basic or translational.
Applicants must have a doctoral degree in a related field, and not currently be a candidate for a second doctoral degree. Investigators may concurrently apply for multiple AACR grants, but are expected to accept the first grant awarded. For eligibility questions, write to [email protected]
Applications must be received by Feb. 8 by 1 p.m. (EST). Grant recipients will be announced at AACR’s annual meeting, held this year from March 29 to April 3 in Atlanta. The awardees must attend.
In a press release, Eilon Kirson, Novocure’s chief science officer and head of research and development, said the grant program seeks to provide a better understanding of how TTFields function, and to accelerate the development of new cancer treatments.
“At Novocure, we are striving to extend survival in some of the most aggressive forms of cancer through the development of Tumor Treating Fields,” he said. “This inaugural grant program with AACR allows us to support independent researchers as they advance basic and translational research on Tumor Treating Fields.”
Still in development, Novocure’s proprietary therapy uses electric fields tuned to certain frequencies to disrupt cancer cell division. For ovarian cancer patients, the therapy is delivered by four electrodes placed on a woman’s torso in the region surrounding the tumor. The delivery system is portable, which allows patients to maintain a regular daily routine.
The Phase 2 study was designed to learn whether a combination of TTFields and weekly Taxol was safe and delayed disease worsening or death in ovarian cancer patients who had received at least one prior line of treatment and who didn’t respond to a platinum-based therapy.
In the study, there were no patient deaths or indications of disease progression for a median of 8.9 months. That’s compared to historical control participants, who live without disease worsening for 3.9 months when receiving only Taxol. In addition, 61% of study patients given Taxol and TTFields survived at least a year after treatment.
Novocure is planning a Phase 3 trial — called INNOVATE 3— to determine whether the combination of TTFields and weekly Taxol is more effective than just weekly Taxol at extending the lives of platinum-resistant patients.
The company is also running TTfields clinical trials in non-small cell lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, mesothelioma, and brain metastasis cases. The treatment is already approved, under the brand name, Optune, for patients with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.