News Nuggets: Scripps Research funding, New drug pairing shows promise against pancreatic cancer


Scripps Research awarded $46.8 million by NIH to promote human health

The Scripps Research Translational Institute has received $46.8 million in renewed funding over a seven-year period from the NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). As part of the nationwide Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Program, the funds will support the institute’s continued progress in transforming human health research through technology-focused innovations, according to a Scripps Research news release.

Eric Topol, MD, founder and director of Scripps Research Translational Institute
Eric Topol, MD, founder and director of Scripps Research Translational Institute
(Scripps Research)

The institute, led by founder and director Eric Topol, MD, is a leader in individualized medicine, combining genomic and digital technologies with cutting-edge artificial intelligence to transform personal health data into clinically useful knowledge.

“We’ve been very fortunate to be part of the CTSA consortium for the past 15 years,” says Topol, who is also a professor of molecular medicine and executive vice president at Scripps Research, in the news release. “In that time, we’ve made tremendous strides in leveraging genomic, wearable sensor technologies, and AI for the capture and interpretation of huge, multimodal datasets into actionable health information.”

The CTSA Program consists of a national network of over 60 “hubs”—biomedical research institutions and universities working together to advance translational science. The Scripps hub, led by the Translational Institute at Scripps Research, includes Calibr (the drug development arm of Scripps Research) as well as long-standing partners Scripps Health and Rady Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine. As part of the latest award cycle, the Scripps hub also established a new partnership with San Diego State University.

New drug pairing shows promise against pancreatic cancer, UCSD study says

New drug pairing shows promise against pancreatic cancer, UCSD study saysUC San Diego researchers say they have found a combination of drugs that outperformed other treatments for pancreatic cancer in human cells and mice and are now urging a clinical trial.

Pancreatic cancer is especially prone to drug resistance, and most drugs work for only a short time before the cancer finds a way around them.

To try to beat that, researchers at the UCSD School of Medicine tested a novel combination of drugs. Their findings, published June 28 in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, indicate the combination is dramatically more effective and less prone to resistance. The authors now recommend that the combination be tested in clinical trials for human cancer patients.

The study was the first to confirm that human pancreatic cells treated with MRTX1133 (from Mirati Therapeutics) develop drug resistance but that the resistance could be overcome by combining the drug with the FDA-approved Afatinib.

The combination of MRTX1133 and Afatinib also reduced the number of surviving cancer cells more than MRTX1133 alone.

The researchers also tested the drugs in a live mouse model of pancreatic cancer and found that mice treated with both drugs survived significantly longer than those treated with either drug alone.

“The synergy between MRTX1133 and Afatinib was remarkable, and we strongly encourage the clinical testing of this drug combination for patients with pancreatic cancer,” said co-senior author Dr. Andrew Lowy, a professor in the Department of Surgery and chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology at the UCSD School of Medicine and clinical director for cancer surgery at UCSD’s Moores Cancer Center.