Oncology Research Program

Highlights of the NCCN Oncology Research Program

The NCCN Oncology Research Program (ORP) strives to improve the quality of life for patients and reduce cancer-related deaths by advancing cancer therapies through research. Since the program's establishment in 1999, the NCCN ORP has brought millions of dollars in research grants to investigators at NCCN Member Institutions. Research grants are provided to NCCN through collaborations with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies; these grants are in turn used to support scientifically meritorious cancer research efforts.

NCCN ORP studies typically explore new avenues of clinical investigation and seek answers to important cancer-related questions. All studies are approved and funded through a scientific peer-review process and are overseen by the ORP.

NCCN-sponsored studies funded through the grant mechanism are highlighted below.

A Phase II Window-of-Opportunity Trial With GSK1120212 in Surgically Resectable Oral Cavity Squamous Cell Cancer

Principal Investigator: Ravindra Uppaluri, MD, PhD

Condition: Oral cavity squamous cell cancer

Institution: Washington University School of Medicine

The goal of this trial is to assess whether inhibition of the MEK/ERK pathway induces tumor-specific cellular changes in oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma (OCSCC). The rationale for this study in OCSCC is based on preclinical findings showing that (1) activation of the ERK1/2 kinases is associated with aggressive features, (2) this aggressive phenotype is directly linked to expression of CD44, a cell surface hyaluronan receptor, and (3) this association between activated ERK1/2 and CD44 is also identified in human cell lines and primary tumors. These data suggest that ERK1/2 is a targetable biochemical pathway in CD44-expressing cells. These cells represent putative cancer stem cells or tumor-initiating cells that have been associated with worse patient outcomes.

Primary Objective:

  • Assess tumor-specific changes in putative tumor-initiating cell populations as defined by cell surface CD44 and intracellular phospho-ERK1/2 staining after treatment with GSK1120212.

Secondary Objectives:

  • Determine through clinical examination whether GSK1120212 induces intratumoral metabolic changes in OCSCC using FDG-PET/CT imaging and change in size.
  • Analyze pathologic changes in the tumor tissue, including proliferation (Ki-67 staining), tumor vasculature staining (microvessel density), and ERK1/2-mediated changes in p27 (Kip1). Human papillomavirus status will be assessed using p16 staining as a surrogate marker.

Contacts: Ravindra Uppaluri, MD, PhD • 314-362-6599 • uppalurir@ent.wustl.edu Farley Johnson, MA, BA, CCRP • 314-747-9202 • farleyj@wudosis.wustl.edu

ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01553851

The goal of the Highlights of the NCCN Oncology Research Program (ORP) is to provide readers with more information on the ORP, including studies currently accruing patients.

For more information on specific trials, including patient selection criteria, please use the contact information listed with each study.

For more information on the NCCN ORP, including a complete detailing of the clinical studies currently underway at NCCN Member Institutions, please access the NCCN ORP pages at NCCN.org/clinical_trials/clinicians.asp.

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