Cancer Research UK’s Drug Development Office marks the launch of its Biotherapeutics Development Unit (BDU) today (Friday) with the manufacture of its first product – an antibody for treating a range of cancers.
The new £18 million drug manufacturing facility is part of Cancer Research UK’s Drug Development Office and is based at the charity’s Clare Hall site in Hertfordshire. The BDU will make experimental medicine and biological research products such as antibodies* which can target cancer cells in a more specific way than traditional chemotherapy treatments. These medicines will then be taken straight into early clinical trials of patients with cancer across the UK.
The first product manufactured in the new unit is an antibody designed to supercharge the body’s immune system to fight cancer ** – an antibody called Chi Lob 7/4.
The antibody was discovered by scientists at the University of Southampton and is currently being tested in a phase I clinical trial to treat cancer patients who are no longer responding to conventional treatment.
The antibody recognises and sticks to a cell-surface receptor, called CD40 which appears on the surface of both cancer cells and cells of the immune system.
Once the antibody sticks to the target it gives the signal for the immune system to recognise the cancer cell as a faulty cell and destroy it.
Heike Lentfer, head of Cancer Research UK’s BDU unit, said: “We are very excited about the opening of the new unit – it provides us with the infrastructure to bolster our drug manufacturing capabilities, enabling our scientists to translate their findings from the laboratory into trials of new treatments in the clinic.
“It’s a real boost being able to make the products that our world class scientists need for life-saving research into cancer – it is more cost effective and efficient, allowing us to work in a more innovative way to find exciting new treatments to beat cancer.”
Trial lead, Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician said: “Having experimental medicines readily available from our own medicine manufacturing centre will be an enormous boost to clinical trials such as this one which is testing a promising new antibody to treat people with cancer.
“It’s great news for our doctors to hear that we will be able to have the drugs made quickly and more cheaply – speeding up the all important process of taking discoveries from the lab to the bedside, providing hope for thousands of patients in the future.”
Cancer Research UK’s Drug Development Office takes drugs through development from discoveries in the laboratory to early clinical phase trials. It includes the Cancer Research UK Formulation Unit in Glasgow which develops experimental medicines in tablet and injection form to be used in clinical trials. The new BDU will develop larger more complex medicines such as vaccines and antibodies.
Brian Harder from Romsey, Southampton, 64, said: “I have had a number of different treatments for bowel cancer some of which had side effects. In February this year I was invited to take part in this Cancer Research UK trial of a new antibody. I feel very well at the moment and am enjoying working in the garden whenever I get the chance. It is great to know that this new manufacturing centre will produce medicines that will go straight to people taking part in clinical trials in order to develop new treatments for cancer.”
Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “This important new medicine manufacturing hub provides a crucial service to support our scientists, doctors and nurses – and we hope this will have a real impact in the development of new and exciting treatments to beat cancer.
“The ability to produce our own medicines – such as exciting new vaccines – will enable us to work more innovatively and quickly towards the goals we have set to improve the treatment and survival of cancer patients.”
For media enquiries please contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 7061 8300 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.
* plasmid DNA, monoclonal antibodies and recombinant proteins.
** Chi Lob 7/4 uses several mechanisms to attack tumours including stimulation of the immune system to recognise and kill cancer cells.
Once the antibody sticks to the target it gives the signal for the immune system to recognise the cancer cell as a faulty cell – and destroy it.
Chi Lob 7/4 is given to patients by intravenous infusion.
The unit is run to Current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) and has a license issued by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) for the manufacture of investigational medicinal products (IMPs).