New cancer therapies are now being developed specifically against oncogenic cell signals. But for rare diseases, these new drugs are often not approved. Two EU-consortia with Austrian participation have now received funding from the ERA-NET TRANSCAN-2 to develop modern treatments for rare but very aggressive peripheral T-cell lymphomas and leukemias.
Peripheral T-cell lymphomas and leukemias (PTCLs) are a heterogeneous group of approximately 20 different very aggressive cancers that occur primarily in adult humans. All forms are difficult to treat and have been treated with conventional chemotherapy for 40 years, which can often only extend life for a short time. More modern therapeutic approaches are still in their infancy, partly because molecular mechanisms remain unresolved. Sequence analysis of cancer patients and biochemical studies have recently shown that many lymphomas have cancer-triggering activation of the JAK/STAT signaling pathway. Cancer cells become dependent on active STAT3/5 and die when turned off. Now two consortia have assembled that will use complementary approaches to speed up the testing of new inhibitors of STAT3/5 that are still in development for their suitability in PTCL patients.
"The treatment of rare diseases poses enormous challenges even for specialized clinics, but there are also new opportunities in personalized medicine. It is now possible to apply modern molecular genetic methods to group patients and to identify suitable modern therapeutics based on these molecular diagnostics," explains Marco Herling from CECAD in Cologne, Germany. The vision is to use molecular markers not only to predict the course of the disease, but also to decide for each individual the most effective treatment. Two international consortia with the participation of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, are bringing together physicians, biologists and systems biologists to advance this research for PTCL. "It not only requires multidisciplinary collaboration to gather preclinical and clinical data, but also to integrate the increasingly complex datasets and make clinical predictions using computer models. It also requires substantial resources, which we now have through the ERA-NETs," emphasizes Richard Moriggl. Researchers from these two consortia meet today and tomorrow upon an invitation of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Cancer Research at the Medical University of Vienna, not only to celebrate their success in raising the funds, but also to discuss the coordination of these two elaborate research programs. Philipp Staber of the Medical University Vienna represents a third consortium seeking to raise synergies through coordination of efforts. "It is our vision to take a big step towards personalized medicine with close coordination. We have excellent researchers on board and will invest a lot of time, money and work over the next three years to improve the treatment of this devastating disease PTCL," says Satu Mustjoki, University of Helsinki, Finland.
ERA-NET TRANSCAN sponsors two consortia, each with € 1.5 million: ERANET-PLL with participation of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, by Marco Herling (Cologne) and EuroTCLym with participation of the Medical University of Vienna, coordinated by Lorenz Truemper (Göttingen). Another application with a contribution by the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, and coordinated by Satu Mustjoki (Helsinki) on PTCL is currently under evaluation by ERA-NET PerMed.