Cleveland Clinic’s ROBIN Center Could Lead the Way to More Effective Radiation and Immunotherapy Treatments

The Cleveland Clinic received a five-year, $7.9 million grant from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health to form one of three national centers as part of the new Radiation Oncology-Biology Integration Network ( Robin).

Timothy Chan, MD, Ph.D., president of the Center for Immunotherapy and Precision Immuno-Oncology, will be the principal investigator of the ROBIN center at the Cleveland Clinic, which will study the molecular mechanisms and biology of the response to radiation therapy and the treatment efficacy of combinations of radiotherapy and immunotherapy for bladder and head and neck cancers.

Radiation therapy is a mainstay of cancer treatment, with about two out of three cancer patients receiving it. Yet despite its widespread use, our understanding of the molecular mechanisms and biology of radiation response remains poor. The ROBIN center will allow us to develop more effective combinations of radiotherapy and immunotherapy and to better understand how these approaches work.”


Dr. Timothy Chan, MD, Ph.D., Chairman of the Center for Immunotherapy and Precision Immuno-Oncology

In collaboration with Emory University, Cleveland Clinic researchers and clinicians will lead the studies with the goal of developing new approaches to cancer treatment by improving understanding of the factors of effectiveness. Specifically, the team will study radiotherapy in combination with antibody-drug conjugates and immune checkpoint inhibitors.

A multidisciplinary team drawn from the fields of radiation oncology, radiation biology and radiation physics research will enable continuous sharing of information. In addition, the creation of a cross-training workforce development program will help build a pool of scientists in radiation biology, radiation physics and clinical radiation oncology.

The ROBIN Center will leverage the Cleveland Clinic’s high patient volumes to generate comprehensive molecular data that will provide key information allowing physicians to select the best treatment for each patient.

“Precision cancer medicine is the future of cancer care,” said Dr. Chan. “The ROBIN Center harnesses the power of Cleveland Clinic’s translational research strengths and world-class patient care, where we have the ability to continually learn innovative treatment techniques by bringing the results back to the research lab for review. further, and then sharing our findings with clinicians to push the frontiers of patient care.”

Omar Mian, MD, Ph.D., radiation oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic’s Taussig Cancer Institute and researcher at the Lerner Research Institute, and Shilpa Gupta, MD, director of genitourinary medical oncology at the Taussig Cancer Institute and co- Head of the Genitourinary Oncology Program, will lead one of the molecular characterization trials focusing on the combination of a targeted therapy, sacituzumab, plus radiation therapy, for the treatment of bladder cancer. A cohort of this study will also take place at the Florida Research and Innovation Center at the Cleveland Clinic, under the direction of Anatoly Nikolaev, MD, Ph.D.

A second clinical trial examining the effectiveness of treating recurrent head and neck cancer with radiation therapy and nivolumab is being led by Shlomo Koyfman, MD, a radiation oncologist at the Taussig Cancer Institute.

Anonymized patient samples from those receiving the current standard of care and those participating in clinical trials will be collected and stored at the Cleveland Clinic BioRepository, a 22,000 square foot facility on the Cleveland Clinic main campus that is managed by Azenta Life Sciences and facilitates precision medicine biobanking with sample collection, transport and integrated tracking.

Dr. Chan’s lab will analyze the samples to generate data using multiple genetic analyses. The breadth and depth of data generated will reveal comprehensive insights into radiation cancer treatment strategies. In another of the ROBIN-funded projects, Jacob Scott, MD, D.Phil., radiation oncologist and head of the theoretical division of the Department of Translational Research in Hematology and Oncology at the Lerner Research Institute, will use artificial intelligence to decipher the temporal dynamics of all the complex changes that occur as a result of a treatment.

“The ROBIN trial will create the data needed to drive precision cancer medicine that ultimately delivers the best outcomes for every patient and helps improve quality of life,” said Dr. Chan.

This study is funded in part by study sponsors Varian and Gilead Sciences, and Brian and Diana Taussig.

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