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Cancer Research UK and AstraZeneca collaborate to trial combinations of new cancer drugs

by Cancer Research Technology (CRT) | News

13 January 2011

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CANCER RESEARCH UK’s drug development office (DDO) has signed a Strategic Combinations Alliance with AstraZeneca to take combinations of experimental cancer drugs into early phase clinical trials.

The move will increase patient access to trials of potential new cancer treatments that combine molecularly targeted experimental drugs developed and owned by AstraZeneca. The trials will also test these combinations alongside conventional chemotherapy radiotherapy and other novel agents.

It is hoped that combination therapy using a number of molecularly targeted drugs may decrease the chance of patients developing resistance to any individual drug. This is because different types of drugs attack the faults in cancer cells at different points.

The trials will be managed and run through the Cancer Research UK/ UK Health Departments Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) Network* at hospitals across the UK with support from Cancer Research UK’s Drug Development Office. AZ will provide access to its drugs to be trialled through the alliance as well as additional financial support. The charity will also hold workshops with the ECMC Network and AZ to identify promising combinations of experimental treatments to trial.

Kate Miller, Head of the combinations alliance at Cancer Research UK’s DDO, said: “We are delighted to be collaborating with AstraZeneca through the combinations alliance. This initiative will provide a huge boost to the UK research community in developing exciting new combination therapies and will mean that more UK patients will be able to take part in important clinical trials of potential new treatments”.

“We are actively looking for additional partners who are interested in collaborating with us.

Our plan is to take the model we’ve established with AstraZeneca forward by developing cross company agreements and providing access to a larger number of potential combinations to help us beat cancer.”

Cancer Research UK’s Drug Development Office is adding value by mediating between the cross company partners and across the ECMCs.

Professor Andrew Hughes, vice president, Oncology Clinical Innovative Medicines,, said: “As we further understand the heterogeneity of cancer, we not only need to redefine the disease but also our solutions to it with the ultimate aim of restoring patients’ lives. The collaboration with Cancer Research UK and the ECMCs provides a key opportunity to redefining our solutions to cancer through combination treatments.”

Cancer Research UK and the ECMC Network have established clear processes to run early phase combination clinical trials through the ECMC Network. This includes peer-review of the scientific data and trial endorsement through Cancer Research UK’s New Agent’s Committee**.

Kate Miller added: “This partnership with AstraZenenca has enabled us to create a standardised way of evaluating and delivering combination studies through the ECMC network.”

Dr Sally Burtles, director of the Experimental Cancer Medicine Network, said: “It is incredibly exciting to have the opportunity to run trials of these promising new drugs which could potentially be used to treat a range of different cancers.

“The ECMC network brings together cancer doctors, nurses and scientists to make it easier to run clinical trials of powerful new tailored treatments – and it is thanks to the generosity and time of patients that it is possible to develop these new approaches which could benefit thousands of people in the future.”