A Finnish Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation awarded 1,5 million euros to support a VeMA clinical breast cancer study scheduled to start in HUS Comprehensive Cancer Center already this year. The clinical trial is among the first in the world having a biologic rationale rooted to MYC oncoprotein's apoptosis promoting function.
The award is for a long-term translational collaboration project between breast cancer researchers at the University of Helsinki and clinicians in Helsinki University Hospital.
VeMA is an early phase investigator-initiated clinical trial in metastatic breast cancer setting, which tests the safety of a new combination treatment regimen that includes two targeted therapy agents combined with an immunotherapy agent anti-PD-L1. The study is expected to find the right dosage for further studies and biomarkers to guide patient selection with improved precision and to monitor treatment responses.
"We are truly excited to start VeMA in HUS, since the biologic rationale for the study comes from a research laboratory working next door. VeMA study is a beautiful example of translational research, that is a process where scientific discoveries made with cancer cells and animal models in a research laboratory serve as grounds for a clinical concept that will be tested in patients in the hospital," says the Principal clinical Investigator, Director and Chief Oncologist Johanna Mattson from HUS Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The study Co-Investigator, Research Director Juha Klefström from the University of Helsinki says that VeMA has been totally handcrafted as a local collaboration between the Medical Faculty and HUS Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“MYC oncoprotein drives abnormal pattern of cell proliferation in about half of the breast cancer cases. However, at the same time, MYC renders cells vulnerable to apoptotic cell death. The key question that has for a long time inspired our work is: can we somehow exploit this inherent apoptotic vulnerability of MYC expressing cancer cells in design of new therapies that would selectively kill cancer cell but leave normal cell unharmed? Now we are about to test this concept for the first time to help women suffering from breast cancer," he says.
Most clinical cancer trials are designed and funded by pharmaceutical industry. In the investigator-initiated trials, the researchers are allowed to design the trial by themselves but the main challenge is to find funding from public sources to support the study.
Thanks to the support of the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation, the VeMA study can now be launched as planned. Pharma has contributed to the study by donating the three drugs needed for the study for free.
Juha Klefström, Research Director, Medical Faculty, University of Helsinki
Tel. +358 44 377 3876
Johanna Mattson, Physician-in-Chief and Director, HUS Comprehensive Cancer Center
Tel. + 358 50 427 9165