Micrograph of metastatic melanoma cells, left, that have invaded pancreatic tissue, right

Cancer Moonshot 2020, a comprehensive cancer collaboration of pharmaceutical and biotech companies, academic cancer centers, community oncologists, and communications technology companies, has announced the formation of the melanoma and sarcoma working group with the goal of speeding promising immunotherapies to clinical trials.

The working group will be chaired by Richard Carvajal, M.D. of Columbia University Medical Center, director of experimental therapeutics, and director of the melanoma service.

The group, comprising physicians, researchers, and professors will collaborate to develop clinical trial protocols via the examination of such elements as standards of care, the use of molecular information to select patients for trials, and novel combination therapy approaches, with the ultimate goal of developing the most effective, targeted cancer-directed immunotherapy treatments for melanoma and sarcoma.

“The establishment of the Melanoma and Sarcoma Working Group reinforces Cancer MoonShot 2020’s commitment to accelerate the war on cancer,” said Patrick Soon-Shiong, M.D., founder and CEO of NantWorks and leader of the Cancer MoonShot 2020 program. “Through the collaborative effort of these academic and industry thought leaders, we will be able to provide patients with melanoma and sarcoma with next-generation immunotherapy treatment.”

Initial members of the working group, in addition to Carvajal include Gary Schwartz, M.D., Columbia University Medical Center, division chief, hematology/oncology, and associate director, Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center; and John Kirkwood, M.D., UPMC, director, Melanoma and Skin Cancer Program. The founding members intend to expand participation in the group and hold its initial meeting in the coming months.

“As members of the melanoma and sarcoma working group, we want to share–and gather–new knowledge and understanding of how to better treat our patients,” Dr. Kirkwood said. “Collectively, we have the passion and the expertise to help accelerate the goal of winning the war on cancer.”

To date Cancer MoonShot 2020 has launched four other working groups in the areas of pediatric cancer, breast cancer, head and neck cancer, and radiation and immuno-oncology. The continued roll out of working groups targeting different cancers are geared toward meeting Cancer MoonShot 2020’s aggressive goal of initiating randomized Phase II clinical trials in patients at all stages of disease in 20 tumor types in 20,000 patients within the next 36 months.

In January, coalition partner Precision Biologics announced the program’s first clinical trial milestone, a 35% improvement in survival for patients with refractory metastatic colorectal cancer, who failed all standards of care, via the use of neo-epitope‎ targeting antibody Ensituximab.

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