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News Release

November 23, 2015


Hawai'i bladder cancer clinical trial gets picked up in states across the nation

HONOLULU – A bladder cancer drug tested in a University of Hawai'i Cancer Center clinical trial gets closer to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. The new drug, an interleukin 15 superagonist complex (ALT-803), combined with Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) is expected to be more effective for patients with non-muscle invasive bladder cancer, the most common type of bladder cancer.

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The drug ALT-803 is combined with BCG.
This new drug combination is tested in the
UH Cancer Center bladder cancer clinical trial

"The last time the FDA approved a drug for bladder cancer was almost two decades ago. Bladder cancer treatment hasn't advanced very much, BCG has been the main drug used to treat the disease since the '80s," said Dr. Charles Rosser, director of the UH Cancer Center's Clinical Trials Office. "The science field has changed so much since then. We may finally be able to move the field forward and get better drugs to patients."

Phase II of the study was recently Institutional Review Board (IRB) and FDA approved. The first patient for Phase II was enrolled on October 15, 2015. The Phase II study will have about 124 participants; most of them will be from Hawai'i. The goal of this phase is to show improved outcomes for cancer patients.

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Dr. Charles Rosser is the director of the
UH Cancer Center's Clinical Trials Office

"At least five other academic centers on the mainland are opening this clinical trial because of encouraging preclinical studies in addition to the Phase I clinical trial results. It is exciting because it started here in Hawai'i and other patients across the country, even across the world, may see positive results as well," said Dr. Rosser.

Phase I of the study with about 9 participants was completed in summer 2015. At least 20 percent of the participants were expected to have a recurrence of bladder cancer by now, but so far no patients have. Overall, bladder cancer has a high recurrence rate of more than 50 percent.

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Kailua resident, Clark Morgan, was a
Phase I clinical trial participant

"I knew this drug had positive results in the lab, so I didn't hesitate to be a part of this clinical trial. I thought well I have bladder cancer, my wife had breast cancer about 7 years ago, so she said we have to do what we can," said Clark Morgan, a Kailua resident and Phase I clinical trial participant. "I thought it was convenient that I could stay in Hawai'i to get this treatment, I don't know if I would have gone if it was on the mainland."

Nationally there are 74,000 new cases of bladder cancer and an estimated 16,000 deaths every year according to the National Cancer Institute. It is ranked in the top five cancers for men in the US. The disease occurs more in men than women.

Phase I showed that the trial was well-tolerated, and also demonstrated the recommended dose to be tested in Phase II. Researchers aim to get the ALT-803 drug created by Altor BioScience Corporation (Miramar, FL) FDA approved.

The University of Hawai'i Cancer Center is one of 69 research institutions designated by the National Cancer Institute. Affiliated with the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, the center is dedicated to eliminating cancer through research, education, and improved patient care. Learn more at Like us on Facebook at Follow us on Twitter @UHCancerCenter.