Cancer research partnership between UCSF, MMRF to drive drug development

By Jennifer O'Brien on May 28, 2009

Released jointly by UCSF and Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation

The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) have established the Stephen and Nancy Grand Multiple Myeloma Translational Initiative, a research collaboration dedicated to translating basic science discoveries into new candidate drugs for testing in clinical trials.

The initiative, known as MMTI, was launched with a $2 million gift from Stephen and Nancy Grand of San Francisco. Mr. Grand, age 65, is a multiple myeloma patient at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The MMTI, a collaboration comprised of UCSF basic scientists, clinical researchers and clinicians, will be led by Jeffrey Wolf, MD, director of the Multiple Myeloma Program at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. The basic science research arm will be led by UCSF’s Peter Walter, PhD, an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the lead scientist on a Collaborative Innovation Award from HHMI that will help drive the initiative.

“Through the MMRF’s drive to identify barriers slowing drug discovery and development, we saw a critical need to champion the growth of translational research in multiple myeloma,” said Louise M. Perkins, PhD, chief scientific officer of the MMRF. “By partnering with UCSF to create the business plan for the MMTI, we are enabling the more rapid development of the next generation of treatments for multiple myeloma, and providing a blueprint for translational initiatives that can serve as models for advancing research in other cancers and diseases.”

Multiple myeloma is an incurable cancer of the bone marrow. The five-year relative survival rate is about 38 percent, one of the lowest of all cancers. In 2008, an estimated 19,920 adults—11,190 men and 8,730 women—in the United States were diagnosed with multiple myeloma and an estimated 10,690 people died from the disease.

“Although we have made much progress in delivering new treatment options to patients, multiple myeloma remains very difficult to treat and effective treatment options are limited,” said Wolf. “By bringing to bear the expertise of UCSF in partnership with the MMRF, we are confident that the MMTI will hasten the pace at which new therapies to treat the disease are developed.”

UCSF is at the forefront in advancing translational research, which is recognized as the critical weak link in medical science today. It involves moving discoveries made in the lab through the process of animal studies, animal testing and small-scale human trials to determine if a discovery warrants examination on a larger scale by a biotechnology or pharmaceutical company.

Research universities have excelled at discovering the genes and proteins and other cellular and extracellular components that underlie disease processes, but they have not had the infrastructure to investigate the potential of these components as therapeutic targets or tools. The work requires close collaboration between basic researchers, clinical researchers and clinicians.

In 2006, UCSF received a five-year, $100 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to support further development of the UCSF infrastructure for translational medicine. UCSF’s existing infrastructure will enable the MMTI to begin its research efforts immediately.

“Currently, there are few translational research initiatives focused solely on multiple myeloma, so we are especially proud to support the MMRF and UCSF, and we are grateful to HHMI for its help in supporting such exciting, important science,” said Stephen Grand, an MMRF board member. “The MMTI provides new hope for patients whose treatment options are limited, by enabling the swifter development of new drug candidates and increasing access to promising therapies under investigation.”

About the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF)

The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) was established in 1998 as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization by twin sisters Karen Andrews and Kathy Giusti, soon after Kathy’s diagnosis with multiple myeloma. The mission of the MMRF is to relentlessly pursue innovative means that accelerate the development of next-generation multiple myeloma treatments to extend the lives of patients and lead to a cure. As the world’s number-one private funder of multiple myeloma research, the MMRF has raised over $120 million since its inception to fund nearly 100 laboratories worldwide. An outstanding 93 percent of funds raised go toward research and related programming. The MMRF has supported 40 new compounds and approaches in clinical trials and pre- clinical studies and has facilitated 19 clinical trials through its sister organization, the Multiple Myeloma Research Consortium (MMRC). For more information about the MMRF, visit www.themmrf.org.

About the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.

Related links:

MMRF
http://www.multiplemyeloma.org/

Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
http://cancer.ucsf.edu/

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Collaborative Innovation Award
http://www.hhmi.org/news/walter_20081120.html
http://www.hhmi.org/news/20081120.html

Additional media contact:

Stephanie Ashe, Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (650) 728-7087
Email: stephanie@continuumhealthcare.com