A Cancer Research UK initiative to improve cancer gene testing has prompted two pharmaceutical companies to plan pioneering international trials into targeted cancer treatments in the UK.
Cancer Research UK’s Stratified Medicine Programme launched last year in a bid to test tumour samples from 9,000 UK patients across six different tumour types to help further research into new targeted therapies.
Each tumour sample is being tested for a range of gene faults linked to cancer, and the information entered into a database that will allow researchers to compare the results of treatment to specific faults within cancer cells.
As a result of the programme, Roche and Bristol-Myers Squibb are working with Cancer Research UK to run trials in the UK that rely on this testing. The Roche trial will look at whether patients with a range of cancers could benefit from the targeted skin cancer drug vemurafenib. The Bristol-Myers Squibb trial is seeking health authority and ethics approval.
Doctors will be able to use the Stratified Medicine testing to see if any of their patients have the specific faults in their tumour, which would make them suitable to join these trials.
Michelle Rashford, medical director, Roche UK said: “The stratified medicines programme run by Cancer Research UK is an exciting initiative, as the opportunity to test tumour samples for a range of biomarkers is an important step in the continued development of personalised medicines. Our VE-Basket study of vemurafenib in patients with V600 mutation positive cancers across different disease areas will allow us to identify patients that may benefit from treatment, and get closer to the goal of truly targeted medicines that provide better patient outcomes, reduce unnecessary side effects and ultimately deliver life-saving and life-prolonging treatments.”
Oracle has also signed an agreement with Cancer Research UK to provide Oracle Health Sciences Translational Research Center software that will allow such information to be integrated and analysed much more efficiently, helping drive forward research into targeted cancer treatments.
Neil de Crescenzo, senior vice president and general manager at Oracle Health Sciences, said: “As we move toward the next generation of care, the ability to integrate and meaningfully analyse data will be a critical component in the ability to deliver more targeted, personalised therapies.
“We are delighted to work with Cancer Research UK to provide the analytical foundation needed to unlock real value from their data to support new insights at the molecular level, as they seek to expand on the genetic testing of tumours to enable more advanced, targeted and effective treatments for cancer patients.”
Cancer Research UK’s programme is a partnership with AstraZeneca, Pfizer, the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), and a range of other universities, hospitals and companies in six collaborations funded by the TSB: a total investment of £18 million. More than 2600 patients have so far enrolled, putting the programme on target to finish recruiting at the end of next summer.
David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said: “This is an excellent example of collaboration between the research base and industry. It shows how Cancer Research UK is driving forward the delivery of significant benefits for patients. Two further pharmaceutical companies have got onboard and decided to carry out clinical trials – this is evidence of the attractiveness of the UK as a location for science and innovation.”
James Peach, director of Cancer Research UK’s stratified medicine programme, said: “We’re delighted that our programme has helped bring these two highly innovative cancer trials to the UK, where we hope they will be of benefit to patients.
“Being able to quickly and efficiently identify patients on the basis of the faults within their tumour is a key step in developing targeted cancer treatments. This will be particularly important in relation to rare cancer types, where the target gene faults may only be present in a relatively small number of patients making it more difficult to do research.
“Patients are the heart of this work, so I’d like to thank the thousands of them who have volunteered, as well as the donors who enable this vital work to take place, and the dedicated teams in the 21 hospitals and three genetics labs across the UK that make it happen every day.”
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