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Community briefs: Cancer drug clinic trial begins at Norris Cotton

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/9/2020 7:53:27 PM
Modified: 10/9/2020 7:53:21 PM

LEBANON — Human clinical trials of a new antibody cancer drug have started at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center.

The drug, CI-8993, is an anti-VISTA (V-domain Ig Suppressor of T-cell Activation), antibody that is designed to target a molecule that keeps the immune system quiet against cancer, according to a news release. It will be given to adult patients who have advanced solid tumors.

VISTA was discovered as a potential therapeutic target by NCCC’s Randolph Noellem, a member of the Immunology and Cancer Immunotherapy Research Program at NCCC and Kosasa Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. In preclinical experiments, the anti-VISTA antibody, CI-8993, which was developed by ImmuNext Inc., can target VISTA, reverse tumor immune suppression and potentially allow for generation of anti-tumor responses.

“VISTA is a protein with high levels of expression in certain immune cells, such as the ones that are present in or around tumors with suppressed T-cell activation,” Jason Faris, principal investigator of the trial, and director of the Early-Phase Trials Program at NCCC, said in a news release. “The discovery of VISTA and subsequent work by Dartmouth researchers, including Dr. Noelle, provide a compelling foundation for further evaluation, and we are delighted to have the opportunity to participate in this Phase I study to further evaluate CI-8993.”

Around 50 patients across several participating cancer centers will be enrolled in the trial. NCCC is the first to open the study, which will have three to six patient slots per dose level. The study is open to patients with metastatic or unresectable solid tumors, among other qualifications, according to the release. Each patient will be administered a low dose of CI-8993. If there are no safety concerns, the patient will receive the first full dose of the drug a week later. If the dose level initially tested is considered to be safe, then the next group of patients to be enrolled onto the clinical trial would be enrolled to a higher dose level.

“VISTA was discovered as potential therapeutic target by Dr. Noelle right here at NCCC, and therapeutic antibodies were developed by ImmuNext, a local biotech company housed within our medical center,” NCCC Director Dr. Steven Leach said in the release. “We are honored to serve as one of the lead academic institutions for this multi-center trial that represents a wonderful example of bench-to-bedside science at NCCC.”

Norwich Historical Society honored for podcast tours

NORWICH — The Norwich Historical Society has received an Award of Excellence from the Vermont Historical Society for three podcast driving tours the nonprofit organization produced.

The project was funded by a grant written by the Norwich Historic Preservation Commission, according to a news release from the Norwich Historical Society. The three tours are titled “Early Settlement,” “Norwich Schools” and “Mills & Rivers.”

Emily Zea created a comic book to accompany the “Early Settlement” tour. The Norwich Women’s Club has funded a second comic book to accompany the Mills & Rivers podcast tour, which is scheduled to be published in November. All the tours and the comic book can be found at norwichhistory.org and downloaded through Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

Aloha Foundation selects executive director

FAIRLEE — Vanessa Mendillo Riegler, who has served as interim executive director of the Aloha Foundation since March, has been chosen to fill the role long-term by the nonprofit organization’s Board of Trustees.

The Aloha Foundation runs five summer camps on Lake Morey and Lake Fairlee, in addition to the Hulbert Outdoor Center in Fairlee. The summer programs did not take place this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Vanessa is a skilled listener who seeks to learn and understand,” Elizabeth Grayer, vice chair of the Board of Trustees, said in a news release. “She pivots seamlessly from conversations about budgets with board members to discussions about water quality with town officials to brainstorming sessions about program development with camp directors.”

In 2012, Riegler was hired as the director of the Aloha Foundation’s Ohana Family Camp. Prior to that, she was employed at Outward Bound as the director of new center development, community outreach and curriculum director, and field instructor.

D-H names interim chair for psychiatry department

LEBANON — Dr. William C. (Will) Torrey is the new interim chair for Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Department of Psychiatry.

Torrey succeeds Dr. Alan I. Green, who recently stepped down after 18 years as chair, according to a news release.

“He is incredibly talented and accomplished in the psychiatry space, with advocacy for mental health awareness and a dedicated partner in incorporating behavioral health into primary care,” D-HH Chief Clinical Officer Edward J. Merrens said in the release.

Torrey graduated from Dartmouth College and Harvard Medical School. He did his residency in psychiatry at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and has remained in the D-HH system, most recently vice chair for Clinical Services for the Department of Psychiatry at D-H.

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