Receiving the [Young Investigator Award] was enormously helpful and motivated me to continue on the cancer research path. I learned an immense amount about how to approach cancer biology through my YIA research.
—Joyce F. Liu, MD, MPH
The Conquer Cancer Foundation has an excellent track record of finding and funding the most promising young investigators. Past recipients Joyce F. Liu, MD, MPH, and Antoni Ribas, MD, PhD, received funding from the Conquer Cancer Foundation early in their career and at the 2014 ASCO Annual Meeting presented research on important advances for patients with recurrent ovarian cancer and advanced melanoma.
Olaparin and Cedirinib in Ovarian Cancer
Dr. Liu presented study findings showing that a combination of the PARP inhibitor olaparib and the antiangiogenic drug cediranib delays recurrent ovarian cancer progression by more than 8 months compared with olaparib alone. This marks the first time these two types of targeted drugs have ever been combined and could fill an important gap in the treatment of ovarian cancer.
“The significant activity that we saw with the combination suggests that this could potentially be an effective alternative to standard chemotherapy,” said Dr. Liu.
Dr. Liu is the recipient of a Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO 2008 Young Investigator Award (YIA). “Receiving the award was enormously helpful and motivated me to continue on the cancer research path. I learned an immense amount about how to approach cancer biology through my YIA research,” she reflected.
Anti–PD-L1 Antibody Shows Promise in Melanoma
Dr. Ribas presented findings from a phase I study of 411 patients with advanced melanoma, which demonstrated that the PD-1 targeting antibody pembrolizumab (MK-3475) yields long-term responses in a high percentage of patients. The 1-year overall survival was 69% across all patient subgroups, and responses were ongoing in 88% of patients at analysis, after a median follow-up of 12 months.
“We were excited to see that [pembrolizumab] was effective in previously untreated patients as well as in those who had multiple prior therapies, including ipilimumab [Yervoy],” said Dr. Ribas. “These are early data, but they tell us we are on to something really important.”
Dr. Ribas received a 2000 Career Development Award (CDA) from the Conquer Cancer Foundation to investigate alpha fetoprotein–based immunotherapy for hepatocellular carcinoma. As Dr. Ribas explained, “it is really hard for someone coming out of a fellowship to receive a grant that will support their salary and give them the protected time to develop new concepts. So, it is really important that the YIA and CDA awards are maintained because it allows the awardees to dedicate the appropriate time and effort to clinical and patient-oriented research.”
The Conquer Cancer Foundation is currently accepting applications for the 2015 YIA and CDA programs. Learn more and apply online at www.conquercancerfoundation.org. ■
© 2014. American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved.