Although there are a large number of targeted therapies available for the treatment of a variety of cancers, the challenge medical practitioners face is matching the right therapy with the right patient. Researchers at UChicago strive to develop novel methods to effectively guide the treatment choices available for patients. Each cancer diagnosis is different — biologically, genetically, and socially — and a uniform approach to treatment is simply not optimal. Two patients diagnosed with the same cancer may differ significantly in their prognosis and response to certain therapies, factors that could drastically alter the outcome of their treatments.
Drug development is an arduous, multistep process. It begins when scientists identify a potential drug target, often molecules that disrupt normal cell function. Using automated, high-volume screening technology, they look for potential therapies by determining if any thousands of compounds from a "chemical library" block the action of the targeted molecule. Further tests in the laboratory and in animal studies determine whether candidate therapies are safe and effective enough to be advanced to trials in patients.
The UCCCC is one of only a handful comprehensive cancer centers in the United States designated by the National Cancer Institute to perform any or all of those steps, including all three progressively rigorous phases of clinical trials required to take a new drug from the lab to the patient's bedside. We are engaged in clinical trials involving more than 300 promising new therapies, more than any other program in the region.
Our research improves the standard of care. For example, the prognosis for patients with an uncommon form of leukemia has significantly improved as a result of clinical trials led by UChicago. The trials, difficult to perform in rare cancers, proved that the drug arsenic trioxide greatly increases the percentage of patients who remain cancer-free following chemotherapy. As a result, this work along with other clinical findings has helped improve patient care.