The Institute for Drug Development (IDD) was founded in 1991 as the research arm of what was then called the Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC), in San Antonio. The IDD has been at the forefront of developing new cancer drugs for decades, with approximately 20 drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for cancer treatment. The program offers patients the opportunity to receive drugs that are only available here and that might not become available to cancer patients elsewhere for several years.

With the CTRC becoming a part of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (also known as UT Health San Antonio) in 2007, the IDD is now part of the university’s Mays Cancer Center, at UT Health San Antonio. 

The vision of CTRC leadership from its very beginning in 1974 was to eventually become a National Cancer Institute Cancer Center. Establishing the IDD was an important step in reaching this goal by focusing on the research needed to discover new cancer treatments for South Texans, an NCI research benchmark. 

Daniel D. Von Hoff, MD, circa 1979
Daniel D. Von Hoff, MD, circa 1979

To establish the CTRC’s research role, Daniel Von Hoff, MD, FACP, FASCO, FAACR, was recruited from the NCI in 1979 as director of research. The next year, 1980, the CTRC received a government screening contract and the CTRC’s research lab was established. During the 1980s, the CTRC was experiencing significant growth and by 1988 was investing approximately $8 million each year in research. That same year, under Dr. Von Hoff’s leadership, the CTRC began a Phase I clinical trials program, enrolling 40 patients in the first year.  By 1991, the CTRC had created the IDD with Dr. Von Hoff as its founding director. A research campus was built for the IDD at the Texas Research Park, a new campus about 20 miles west of San Antonio. With Dr. Von Hoff at the helm, the IDD grew into one of the largest Phase I clinical trials programs in the nation. Through a combined application with UT Health San Antonio, the CTRC received NCI-designated Cancer Center status in 1990. 

After Dr. Von Hoff’s departure in 1999 to join the University of Arizona Cancer Center, the IDD had two directors with brief tenures until Drs. Anthony Tolcher and Chris Takimoto became director of clinical research and director of pharmacology, respectively, from 2002-2007. Under their joint leadership, the IDD continued to grow.  

When the CTRC became part of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in 2007, the preclinical research housed at the Texas Research Park was moved to the university’s campus in San Antonio, allowing for closer collaboration with basic scientists and physicians who were treating cancer patients. 

In 2010, Dr. Steve Weitman, an expert in drug development, who had previously worked with Dr. Von Hoff in the early days of the IDD, became director, leading the IDD until 2016.

And as the Mays Cancer Center transitioned in 2017 to Ruben Mesa, MD, as director, the Mays Cancer Center experienced new growth and leadership. Dr. Mesa was formerly professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona and deputy director of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center.

In August 2019, Dr. Mesa recruited Daruka Mahadevan, MD, PhD, a world-renowned expert in early phase drug development, from the University of Arizona Cancer Center, where Dr. Mahadevan had been mentored by Dr. Von Hoff. In 2020, supported by an AT&T endowment, Dr. Mahadevan’s role expanded from chief of hematology-oncology to director of the IDD and associate director for clinical research at the Mays Cancer Center. 

Under his leadership, the IDD is exploring new methods of preventing, detecting, treating and surviving cancer through a revitalized early therapeutics clinical trials program, membership in several NCI-sponsored clinical trials groups and partnerships with pharmaceutical companies.

His goals include increasing the number of clinical trials initiated by Mays Cancer Center investigators, enrolling more patients in cancer treatment trials and growing the Mays Cancer Center’s minority patient participation in cancer clinical trials. 

To accomplish this, he has realigned the early phase therapeutics/Phase I program with multiple recruitments. 

“Our goals are to open novel, first-in-class and first-in-human clinical trials to our cancer patients,” Dr. Mahadevan said. “These efforts give eligible pediatric and adult patients access to leading treatment options years before they become widely available to the public.”

Highlights of these new efforts include:

  • Conducting basic research that yields impactful discoveries about how cancer develops, grows and spreads in pediatric and adult patients.
  • Developing drugs, including original drugs, novel drug targets and new uses for existing drugs.
  • Reaching out to the community to learn how cancer affects Hispanics, and to provide the rest of the nation with a template for studying and treating cancer in this group, one of the fastest-growing populations in the U.S.
  • Conducting outreach to interest young people in the field of cancer treatment and research, and training young scientific leaders including junior faculty members at UT Health San Antonio.
  • Educating physicians and health care workers in the community about the latest treatments likely to be approved by the FDA through the IDD’s annual Practical Application of Novel Agents in Cancer meeting. 

The IDD has developed nearly 20 agents over the past 30 years that are now FDA-approved and considered standard treatment for various types of cancers. 

Trade Name Label indication
Camptosar® Metastatic colorectal cancer
Eloxatin® Stage III & metastatic colorectal cancer
Tarceva® Locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer
Fludara® Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
Iressa® Non-small cell lung cancer
Gemzar® Metastatic pancreatic & breast cancer; locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer
Hycamtin® Metastatic ovarian cancer/small cell lung cancer
Navelbine® Locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer
Novantrone® Prostate cancer and acute non-lymphocytic leukemia
Alimta® Mesothelioma; locally advanced and metastatic non-small cell lung cancer
Taxol® Metastatic ovarian cancer; advanced or metastatic breast cancer; non-small cell lung cancer; Kaposi’s Sarcoma
Taxotere® Metastatic breast cancer; locally advanced and metastatic non-small cell lung cancer; metastatic prostate cancer
Temodar® Brain cancer (glioblastoma multiforme, anaplastic astrocytoma)
Nexavar® Advanced renal cell cancer
Vectibix® Metastatic colorectal cancer
Torisel® Advanced renal cell cancer
Erbitux® Metastatic colorectal cancer; advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck
Tykerb® Metastatic breast cancer
Revlimid® Multiple myeloma