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While radiosensitizing chemotherapy has improved survival for several types of cancer, current chemoradiation regimens remain ineffective for many patients and have substantial toxicities. Given the strong need for the development of novel radiosensitizers to further improve patient outcomes, the Radiation Research Program (RRP) and the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) in the National Cancer Institute (NCI) issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) through the NCI SBIR Development Center's contracts pathway. We sought to determine the research outcomes for the NCI SBIR Development Center's funded proposals for the development of radiosensitizers. We identified SBIR-funded contracts and grants for the development of radiosensitizers from 2009 to 2018 using the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Reporter database. Research outcomes of the NCI SBIR Development Center-funded proposals were determined using a comprehensive internet search. We searched PubMed,, company websites and for research articles, abstracts and posters, clinical trials, press releases and other news, related to progress in the development of funded radiosensitizers. To protect the intellectual property of the investigators and small businesses, all information obtained and reported is publicly available. The SBIR Program has funded four contracts and 11 grants for the development of novel radiosensitizers. Two companies have received phase IIb bridge awards. Overall, 50% of companies (6/12) have successfully advanced their investigational drugs into prospective clinical trials in cancer patients, and all but one company are investigating their drug in combination with radiation therapy as described in the NCI SBIR Development Center proposal. To date, only one company has initiated a randomized trial of standard of care with or without their radiosensitizer. In conclusion, the NCI SBIR Development Center has funded the development of novel radiosensitizers leading to clinical trials of novel drugs in combination with radiation therapy. Continued follow-up is needed to determine if any of these novel radiosensitizers produce improved tumor control and/or overall survival.


Kaveh Zakeri, Deepa Narayanan, Pataje G S Prasanna, Bhadrasain Vikram, Jeffrey C Buchsbaum. Development of Novel Radiosensitizers through the National Cancer Institute's Small Business Innovation Research Program. Radiation research. 2020 May;193(5):425-434

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PMID: 32216707

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