University of Southern California
USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center

Developmental Therapeutics Program

The overall goal of the Developmental Therapeutics Program (DTP) is to improve survival and quality of life for children and adults with cancer with new therapies that target critical pathways of tumor and host cells that promote tumor growth and survival. The unifying theme of the DTP is to integrate biology, pre-clinical therapeutics, biomarker, and imaging research with early phase clinical trials. Our Specific Aims are to: 1) conduct pre-clinical biological and therapeutic research; 2) conduct early-phase clinical trials; 3) develop biomarker strategies; and 4) develop imaging strategies applicable for assessing efficacy of new therapeutics. The DTP has 38 members from 13 academic departments in three schools who perform basic, translational, and clinical cancer research. Members currently have successfully competed for $8.3 million in peer-reviewed direct costs per year of which $5.1 million is from NCI grants. They published 866 papers over the last five years of which 214 (25%) are inter-programmatic and 140 (16%) are intra-programmatic. The DTP plays a vital bridging role in the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center (NCCC) by being a conduit for the translation of basic science discoveries into clinical practice. The Whittier Initiative is a DTP effort that specifically funds pilot projects that translate laboratory research into clinical application. DTP clinical investigators lead Phase I and II and pilot clinical trials at the USC Norris Cancer Hospital, LAC+USC County Hospital, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), as well as in collaboration with consortia and cooperative groups in which Cancer Center investigators have important leadership positions. The DTP has made improvements to our processes for conducting clinical trials, established a Small Animal Imaging Core, secured funding for two new centers and recruited eight new faculty members. Key goals in our strategic plan are to: 1) build a pre-eminent early phase clinical trial center for childhood and adult malignancies; 2) expand early phase development to include local and regional consortia and cooperative groups, as appropriate; and 3) integrate imaging and biomarker research into early phase clinical trials. We anticipate that DTP research at NCCC will result in the development of new approaches to effectively treat cancer, redefining the standard of care and improving patient survival.