Cancer Breakthroughs 2020 Forms Radiation and Immuno-Oncology Working Group to Accelerate Efforts to Win the War on Cancer

15 top medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and scientists collaborating from all parts of the country including Mass General, Tufts, Emory, Sanford Health, and Cedars Sinai to work on combinations of low dose radiation with cancer-directed immunotherapy

CULVER CITY, Calif. – April 18, 2016 - Cancer Breakthroughs 2020, the nation's most comprehensive cancer collaborative initiative, today announced the formation of the Radiation and Immuno-Oncology Working Group. This expert team, consisting of more than 15 medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and scientists, has been formed to harness collective wisdom in developing treatments for cancer by identifying the most effective combinations of low dose radiation (LDR) with cancer-directed immunotherapy.

The goal of the Cancer Breakthroughs 2020 program is to accelerate the development of novel combination immunotherapies as the next generation standard of care. Members of the program including pharma, biotech, payers, academic centers and community oncologists have been brought together to undertake and support randomized clinical trials in patients with cancer at all stages of disease. This will be conducted through the Quantitative Integrative Lifelong Trial (QUILT) program, which aims to test multiple combinations of therapies on up to 20,000 patients who have undergone next-generation whole genome, transcriptome and quantitative proteomic analysis. Since the launch of Cancer Breakthroughs 2020 in January by Dr. Soon-Shiong, the program has accomplished significant milestones including:

  • Formation of the National Immunotherapy Coalition (January 2016);
  • Coverage by Independence Blue Cross to reimburse GPS Cancer, the next generation whole genomic, transcriptomic  and proteomic analysis in select cancer patients (January 2016);
  • Access to  over 60 molecules for combination immunotherapy in the  QUILT trials (January 2016);
  • Reaching first clinical trial milestone through promising results of Ensituximab, a neo-epitope immunotherapy (January 2016);
  • Formation of a National Pediatrics Consortium with over 10 founding children’s hospitals (February 2016);
  • Selection of Schulman IRB as its national review board (March 2016); and
  • Most recently, the completion of multiple CRADA agreements between members of the cancer Breakthroughs biotech and pharma partners with NCI Immunology branch (April 2016).

The announcement of the formation of the Radiation Immuno-Oncology group is yet another milestone in the goals of Cancer Breakthroughs 2020 to accelerate the war on cancer. 

The Radiation and Immuno-Oncology Working Group brings together members from institutions across the country, including Sanford Health, Emory University, Cedars Sinai, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Tufts Medical Center, the Vaccine and the Immunotherapy Center at Massachusetts General Hospital. The working group will be chaired by Robert Martell, M.D., Ph.D., associate chief of Hematology and Oncology, Tufts Medical Center, who will spearhead the team’s efforts with regular meetings and development of protocols combining LDR with cancer vaccines, checkpoint inhibitors, protein therapeutics, and cell based immunotherapies made available by the biotech and pharma companies in the Cancer Breakthroughs 2020 network. Protocols will be announced at ASCO this year.

 “Creating a broad platform of independently creative scientists and physicians, who work together in a collaborative climate as a single team with a common vision of innovation, deep conviction and persistence, is essential to winning the war on cancer,” explained Patrick Soon-Shiong, M.D., founder and CEO of NantWorks and leader of the Cancer Breakthroughs 2020 program. “We believe that radiation administered at a lower dose could play an important immuno-modulatory role without the toxicities associated with current standards of care. Having this specific group of individuals with deep clinical expertise in radiation oncology will broaden the knowledge base from which the Cancer Breakthroughs 2020 network can benefit and provide the basis for innovative and collaborative synergies. The translation of discoveries in immuno-oncology into improvements in human health will require incremental and radical breakthroughs, which can only be accomplished by a dedicated and specialized innovation team with unique resources, and a national collaborative effort that ensures that the right people, tools, and methodology are in place to transform immuno-oncology,” Dr. Soon-Shiong added.  

 “This unique, fundamentally ground-breaking approach applies the cutting-edge diagnostic capabilities of NantOmics to rationally select the most promising anti-cancer immunology agents to combine with targeted, low-dose radiotherapy,” said Dr. Martell. “This trial is a key component of the much broader Cancer Breakthroughs 2020 program, which is leading the effort to transform precision medicine for adult and pediatric patients with cancer.”

 The NantHealth GPS Cancer™ platform, which utilizes a CLIA-certified and CAP-accredited, next-generation whole genomic, transcriptomic and mass spectroscopy based proteomic analysis capabilities of NantOmics, will be used to select patients eligible for these combination trials, as well as to determine the appropriate targeted therapies to be combined with LDR for maximum efficacy.

“Novel immune stimulatory radiation combined with immune modulatory drugs areexciting and relatively unexplored areas of treatment that have the potential to improve long-term treatment response in patients,” stated John Lee, M.D., FACS, professor and medical director of Oncology Research, Sanford Health. “The oncologists at Sanford Health are excited to participate in developing these therapies and bring them to the clinic as part of the Cancer Breakthroughs 2020 team.” 

About Low Dose Radiation

Optimization of low dose radiation (LDR) therapy protocols as components of a multi-pronged treatment strategy in immuno-oncology have a very high impact potential. LDR has recently demonstrated the ability to enhance the efficacy of novel immunotherapies and boost the potency of the immune system against cancer. This is in contrast to high dose radiation, commonly used in standard cancer treatment programs and is associated with serious side effects. The combined use of cancer vaccines with low dose local radiation of the primary tumor have caused regression of distant metastases due to a strong stimulation of the immune system. In addition, LDR has been discovered to enhance the anti-cancer function of the immune system of cancer patients by helping the patient’s natural killer (NK) cells and T cells to search, engage and destroy cancer cells, providing a clear rationale for combination with NantKwest’s natural killer cell therapy.

About Cancer Breakthroughs 2020

Cancer Breakthroughs 2020 is the nation's most comprehensive cancer collaborative initiative seeking to accelerate the potential of combination immunotherapy as the next-generation standard of care in cancer patients. This initiative aims to explore a new paradigm in cancer care by initiating randomized Phase II trials in patients at all stages of disease in 20 tumor types in 20,000 patients within the next 36 months. These findings will inform Phase III trials and the aspirational Breakthroughs to develop an effective vaccine-based immunotherapy to combat cancer by 2020. For more information, please visit and follow Cancer Breakthroughs 2020 on Twitter.  

About GPS Cancer

GPS Cancer™ is a first-of-its-kind, comprehensive test available through NantHealth. GPS Cancer integrates whole genome (DNA) sequencing, whole transcriptome (RNA) sequencing, and quantitative proteomics, providing oncologists with a comprehensive molecular profile of a patient’s cancer to inform personalized treatment strategies. GPS Cancer testing is conducted in the CLIA-certified, CAP-accredited laboratories of NantOmics, and is a key enabler for the Cancer Breakthroughs 2020 program, the nation's most comprehensive cancer collaborative initiative seeking to accelerate the potential of combination immunotherapy as the next generation standard of care in cancer patients.


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