More than 40 Industry Visionaries Meet to Explore New Combination Cancer Drug Development Paradigm

This endeavor, the CoNNCT (Collaborative Novel-Novel Combination Therapies) Initiative, was the brainchild of Keith T. Flaherty, MD, Director of Developmental Therapeutics at Massachusetts General Hospital and Director of the Termeer Center for Targeted Therapies. Clarion Healthcare, a life sciences strategy consultancy based in Boston and with deep expertise in oncology, provided support to enable this event.

“There are tremendously exciting advances today with individual novel therapeutics,” commented Dr. Flaherty, “but individual therapies are rarely going to cure cancer. The true promise of the science clearly lies in combinations of these novel therapies.”

Currently there is preclinical evidence to support thousands of combinations among the >1000 individual agents in the oncology pipeline. Only a tiny fraction of these are likely to be explored, however, due to numerous challenges including financial constraints, limited patient populations, finite bandwidth among clinical trial experts, and the challenge of cross-company partnerships.

The new paradigm calls for collaboration across diverse stakeholder groups, with drugs, funding and expertise contributed by multiple pharmaceutical companies, and governance and execution led by a non-profit entity and academic centers.

Dr. Flaherty highlighted critical innovative elements of the endeavor. “CoNNCT is the first time a group of this kind is focusing on novel-novel drug combinations for potential treatments that have not yet been reviewed by the FDA,” he stated. “Our goal is to work together to speed the decision-making around go/no-go decisions in oncology combination drug development using higher throughput and early signal finding.”

Dennis Chang, PhD, a Principal at Clarion, added, “Developing novel therapeutics for cancer is hard. Developing novel combination therapeutics is even harder. And developing novel combinations among multiple companies adds still another layer of complexity. But the scientific evidence and urgent medical need for a new, faster paradigm far outweighs the strategic and organizational challenges that have prevented the community from tackling this in the past.”

Dr. Chang continued, “At Clarion our experience shows that seemingly intractable problems—when framed strategically, addressed systematically, and approached collaboratively—are in fact solvable. We’re excited to help leaders come together today to describe the vision and take early critical steps in defining a new, faster paradigm.”

“It’s time to take bold action to capitalize on the remarkable opportunities offered by today’s scientific advances,” agreed Dr. Flaherty, “and the CoNNCT Workshop was an important step forward. The ‘coalition of the willing’ in attendance is passionately motivated as well as deeply knowledgeable. Together, we’re beginning to map a path for CoNNCT to bring combination therapies to cancer patients more quickly.”

About Clarion Healthcare, LLC

Clarion Healthcare is a strategy and organizational consultancy that works together with clients in the life sciences industry to envision, define and realize growth opportunities. Founded in 2003 and based in Boston, Clarion helps clients transform novel science and technology into products and services that positively impact patients’ lives.

About The Termeer Center

The Termeer Center brings together cutting-edge research resources and provides a foundation for collaborations among physicians and investigators from a broad spectrum of biomedical disciplines, resulting in a rapidly expanding arsenal of weapons against cancer. Leading specialists from the Cancer Center’s 24 disease centers participate in the Termeer Center by enrolling their patients in its fast-growing portfolio of Phase I, Phase II and Phase III clinical trials.


For Clarion Healthcare
Keith Flaherty,
Dennis Chang,