One of the most challenging cancers to treat is also one of the rarest, which only adds to the challenge of finding potential new therapies. Now, adrenal cancer researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center are seeing the results of their laboratory studies translate to a clinical trial that will test a potential new therapy in patients with the disease.
Researchers Tom Kerppola, Ph.D., and Gary Hammer, M.D., Ph.D., collaborated to test a new compound, ATR-101, in cell lines and mice. Their studies found that ATR-101 selectively killed the adrenal and adrenal cancer cells with very little effect on other cells in the body.
Less than a year after these findings, ATR-101 is now in a phase I clinical trial at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, testing the safety of the compound in people with advanced adrenocortical carcinoma. The trial, which is the first time this compound is being tested in humans, will enroll 21 participants. The drug is a pill, taken orally.
The ATR-101 study is offered by Atterocor, Inc., a Michigan-based company that was co-founded by Hammer to develop new adrenal cancer therapies. Hammer serves as a consultant to the company and is chairman of the scientific advisory board. He is not involved in the clinical trial at U-M.
"Many adrenal cancer patients are desperate for new therapeutic options, and ATR-101 is one of the few compounds in the world directed at this ultra-rare disease," says Hammer, who is the Millie Schembechler Professor of Adrenal Cancer at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The professorship Hammer holds is the result of years of fundraising by legendary U-M football coach Bo Schembechler, whose wife, Millie Schembechler, died of adrenal cancer in 1992. This funding, directed specifically at adrenal cancer, has allowed the U-M to achieve an extraordinary level of expertise — both in research and patient care — in this rare and devastating disease.
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