Astex Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: ASTX), a pharmaceutical company dedicated to the discovery and development of novel small molecule therapeutics, Cancer Research Technology Limited (CRT) and The Institute of Cancer Research, London, have initiated a collaboration to discover and develop drug candidates targeting an undisclosed epigenetic target in a blood cancer with high unmet medical need.
The collaboration combines Astex’s world-renowned fragment-based drug discovery platform and epigenetic drug development experience with the expertise in blood cancer biology at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and proven success in drug discovery at the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit at the ICR.
Dysregulated epigenetic mechanisms are now understood to underlie a variety of cancer types, and have been successfully targeted by the first generation of epigenetic anticancer drugs. In some cases, specific epigenetic mutational events can be linked to disease etiology, providing an opportunity to develop highly targeted personalised medicines and associated companion diagnostics that will ultimately improve survival and reduce side effects.
“We are delighted to be entering into this new collaboration with the ICR and CRT on a key epigenetics target,” said Harren Jhoti, PhD, president of Astex Pharmaceuticals. “This new partnership builds on the highly successful collaboration which Astex entered into with the ICR and CRT in 2003 on another cancer target, PKB/Akt. That collaboration led to the discovery of two clinical candidates, the first of which, AZD5363, was taken into Phase I by our partner AstraZeneca in early 2011 and the second of which, AT13148, is being prepared to be taken into Phase 1 under our development partnership with Cancer Research UK. “
Professor Paul Workman, director of the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit at The Institute of Cancer Research, said: “ICR scientists are pioneers at unravelling blood cancer drug targets, which others have considered challenging to drug effectively. We have a very strong track record of designing drugs to attack challenging biological targets and bringing them into clinical trial, and given Astex’s complementary expertise, we are very excited about the potential of this collaboration.”
Dr Phil L’Huillier, director of business management at CRT, said: “Putting in place this collaboration between the Cancer Research UK-funded drug discovery team at the ICR and Astex provides a powerful route to identify drug candidates for this promising new target.
“The deal will ensure that the research programme benefits from the necessary investment to progress the research to its full potential while building on the validation and assay development work that has been carried out at the ICR and funded by Cancer Research UK and others.
“We hope that this research will lead to the development of new drugs to ultimately improve survival for cancer patients.”
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Epigenetics describes gene modifications, such as methylation and histone modification that do not involve a change in the DNA sequence.