A $250m (£177m) grant from Silicon Valley billionaire Sean Parker, announced on Wednesday (13 April), aims to accelerate the development of more effective cancer treatments by encouraging collaboration among leading researchers.
The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy will include over 40 laboratories and more than 300 researchers from six key cancer centres: New York's Memorial Sloan Kettering, Stanford Medicine, UCLA, UC San Francisco, Houston's University of Texas MD Anderson and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
"Breakthroughs created at one centre are immediately available to all scientists within the network. Nearly 400,000 cancer patients walk through the doors of these institutions every year. We are able to streamline the process of opening clinical trials and enrolling patients across multiple institutions simultaneously. This is the result of three years of work with our member researchers and partner centres with the goal of accelerating the process of taking discoveries from bench to bedside," said Parker, the co-founder of music-sharing website Napster.
The institute will focus on cancer immunotherapy, a relatively new field in which which the body's immune system is harnessed to fight cancer cells. Recently approved drugs such as Yervoy and Opdivo, both from Bristol Myers-Squibb, and Merck & Co's Keytruda have helped some patients sustain remission, but not all. Now scientists are trying to understand how to make the drugs more universally effective.
The institute will be working in three key areas of research: modifying the patient's immune system T-cells to target a tumour, investigating ways to boost the response to immunotherapy drugs, and researching new ways to attack a tumour.