The NIH and 11 biopharmaceutical companies have partnered to identify, develop and validate new biomarkers that will accelerate the development of cancer immunotherapies.

Credit: Iakov Filimonov/Alamy Stock Photo

Because these drugs recruit the immune system to kill tumours, conventional criteria for measuring responses to cancer therapies may not effectively capture therapeutic activity. Drug developers therefore need a whole new set of tools to identify patients who are likely to respond, track the emergence of resistance, understand how the drugs act and monitor success in clinical trials (Nat. Rev. Drug Discov. 15, 807–809; 2016). Over the next 5 years, the US$215 million Partnership for Accelerating Cancer Therapies (PACT) consortium will work precompetitively to find biomarkers that can help address these issues. Although companies have been searching for biomarkers on their own, by working together they can pool resources and expertise, while also ensuring that data are uniform, harmonized and comparable across different trials.

PACT's industry partners consist of AbbVie, Amgen, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, Genentech, Gilead Sciences, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen, Novartis and Pfizer. Each partner will contribute up to $1 million per year, and the NIH will contribute the remaining $160 million. PACT will be managed by the Foundation for the NIH (FNIH). The FDA is serving in an advisory role.