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Cancer Research UK unveils plans to revive shelved anti-cancer drugs

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by Cancer Research UK | News

3 May 2006

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A seam of untapped anti-cancer drugs is set to be mined by Cancer Research UK through a new initiative that will see the charity team up with some of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

Clinical Development Partnerships (CDP) is a joint initiative between Cancer Research UK and Cancer Research Technology, the charity’s development and commercialisation arm. It aims to increase the number of successful new treatments for cancer by taking undeveloped anti-cancer agents from industry and putting them into clinical trials.

The initiative is targeted at leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies who have a large pool of molecules that may have anti-cancer properties. However, these companies have to prioritise which agents they take into clinical development – this leaves potentially effective treatments on pharmaceutical companies’ shelves.

CDP will take promising but ‘deprioritised’ anti-cancer drugs into early stage clinical trials through Cancer Research UK’s highly experienced Drug Development Office. Effectively the charity will ‘borrow’ a drug from a company and conduct early clinical trials at no cost to the company. If the drug looks promising, the company retains the option to develop and market the drug, but with the charity receiving a share of any revenues.

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research Technology and chief operating officer of Cancer Research UK, said: “Cancer Research UK has set an ambitious target to double its drug development activity over the next five years and we are seizing an opportunity to seek out new treatments that otherwise might not get developed.”

There are many reasons why potential treatments do not make it to market. Science has progressed so rapidly in recent years that there are more compounds available than commercial resources to investigate them. And because drug development is so time-consuming and expensive – a new anti-cancer drug can take in excess of 10 years and £500 million to develop – anything that doesn’t look extremely promising is not developed by a pharmaceutical company.

Harpal Kumar added: “The drug companies have these potential treatments trapped in their pipelines and we have the expertise and capacity to release this potential. Their drug candidates coupled with our world-class network of trial centres and scientists, offers a perfect partnership to achieve the greatest impact in the global fight against cancer.”

Dr Richard Tiner, medical director of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said: “This is a simple, rapid and cost-effective way in which pharmaceutical companies can boost their product lines. Companies will retain intellectual property rights to their original molecules and first option to view the trial data, so should have no reservations about loaning these compounds to Cancer Research UK for further investigation.

“The pharmaceutical industry is aware that it can’t develop all the potential treatments it would like to because of its huge pipelines, so this initiative offers companies a unique opportunity to maximise the value of their shelved assets and develop new treatments for the benefit of cancer patients.”

Professor Alex Markham, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “Making the leap from something that looks promising in the laboratory to testing it in patients is one of the most challenging steps in drug development.

“There is a real potential here for us to develop a raft of new anti-cancer drugs. This may include new medicines to tackle the rarer cancers – those that tend to be lower down a business’ priority list because they are less profitable. Ultimately we want to increase the number of new treatments for all cancer patients.”


For media enquiries please contact Emma Gilgunn-Jones on 020 7061 8311 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.