The Cancer Research Technology (CRT) Pioneer Fund has today announced its investment in research to develop new drugs called heat-shock factor 1 (HSF1) pathway inhibitors, which have the potential to block a protective mechanism used by cancer cells.
The investment will support Cancer Research UK-funded scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, who are designing the drugs, and will also fund a phase I clinical trial of the new approach to treatment.
Normally the HSF1 pathway is activated only when cells are stressed. The pathway sends a message to the nucleus to switch on stress response genes to protect healthy cells and tissues. But in cancer the cells are under constant stress and rely on the pathway to survive.
The researchers predict that blocking this pathway using HSF1 pathway inhibitors will stop cancer cells from growing and shrink tumours.
It’s hoped that the drugs will work in many cancers, including cancers where there is a high unmet need for new treatments.
Today’s investment is the sixth made by the CRT Pioneer Fund.
The fund was launched by CRT, the commercialisation arm of Cancer Research UK, and the European Investment Fund (EIF) in 2012 to bridge the funding gap between cancer drug discovery and early drug development. It is managed by Sixth Element Capital LLP and has received additional investment from BACIT Limited.
Ian Miscampbell, managing partner of Sixth Element Capital LLP, said: “We’re delighted to announce the CRT Pioneer Fund’s investment in the HSF1 project and to be collaborating again with The Institute of Cancer Research.
“This investment will pave the way for potential new cancer drugs to be taken into phase I clinical trials. If the first studies are successful we will seek industry partners to further develop and commercialise these drugs.”
Professor Paul Workman, chief executive and president of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and original leader of the HSF1 research programme, said: “There have been major steps forward in creating innovative new cancer treatments, but we still see many patients whose cancer has developed resistance to all available drugs, and there is an urgent need to find more treatment options. Cancer cells operate in a highly stressed state, and one tantalising possibility is to target pathways that help cancer cells survive levels of stress that would kill healthy cells.
“Blocking heat shock factor 1 disrupts a network of molecular signals that help cancer cells to survive, grow and spread, and has the potential to arrest cancer growth and shrink tumours. This new investment is an important milestone for our programme to develop drugs that could treat cancer in a completely new way by blocking heat shock factor 1, and will allow us to progress a drug into the first clinical trial in patients.”
Dr Keith Blundy, chief executive of CRT, said: “We’re pleased to be funding even more excellent science through the CRT Pioneer Fund. The fund was set up to overcome the hurdles in early-stage drug development and ensure that cancer drugs make it all the way from the lab to patients. This latest investment is an important example of how we’re doing this with an interesting target that could hold real promise in treating cancer.”
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EIF’s central mission is to support Europe’s micro, small and medium sized enterprises by helping them to access finance. EIF designs and develops venture and growth capital and guarantees instruments which specifically target this market segment. EIF has a crucial role to play throughout the value chain of enterprise creation, from the earliest stages of intellectual property development to mid and later stage SMEs. EIF fosters EU objectives in support of innovation, research and regional development, entrepreneurship, growth, and employment. At the end of 2015, EIF has committed EUR 9.9bn in over 500 venture and growth capital funds.
BACIT Limited is a self-managed closed-ended investment company listed on the London Stock Exchange (Ticker: BACT.L). Its investment objective is to deliver superior returns from investments in leading long-only and alternative investment funds with proven managers and across multiple asset classes. BACIT makes an annual donation of 1 % of its net asset value to charity, half of which is donated to the ICR and half to the BACIT Foundation, which grants that half (net of the BACIT Foundation’s expenses) to charities in a list proposed annually by the BACIT Foundation (including the ICR) in proportions determined by BACIT’s investors.
About The Institute of Cancer Research, London
The Institute of Cancer Research, London, is one of the world’s most influential cancer research institutes.
Scientists and clinicians at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) are working every day to make a real impact on cancer patients’ lives. Through its unique partnership with The Royal Marsden Hospital and ‘bench-to-bedside’ approach, the ICR is able to create and deliver results in a way that other institutions cannot. Together the two organisations are rated in the top four cancer centres globally.
The ICR has an outstanding record of achievement dating back more than 100 years. It provided the first convincing evidence that DNA damage is the basic cause of cancer, laying the foundation for the now universally accepted idea that cancer is a genetic disease. Today it leads the world at isolating cancer-related genes and discovering new targeted drugs for personalised cancer treatment.
As a college of the University of London, the ICR provides postgraduate higher education of international distinction. It has charitable status and relies on support from partner organisations, charities and the general public.
The ICR’s mission is to make the discoveries that defeat cancer. For more information visit http://www.icr.ac.uk
About the CRT Pioneer Fund
The CRT Pioneer Fund is a £70m Fund dedicated to investment in oncology development programmes in Europe. The sweet spot for investment is pre-lead optimisation through to early clinical trials in man. The Fund is dedicated to asset financing projects emanating from Europe and expects to commit two-thirds of its investment to projects derived from Cancer Research UK’s oncology drug discovery portfolio with the remainder being invested in projects from outside Cancer Research UK.
About Cancer Research Technology
Cancer Research Technology (CRT) is a specialist commercialisation and development company, which aims to develop new discoveries in cancer research for the benefit of cancer patients. CRT works closely with leading international cancer scientists and their institutes to protect intellectual property arising from their research and to establish links with commercial partners. CRT facilitates the discovery, development and marketing of new cancer therapeutics, vaccines, diagnostics and enabling technologies. CRT is a wholly owned subsidiary of Cancer Research UK, the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research. Further information about CRT can be found at www.cancertechnology.com and about Cancer Research UK at www.cancerresearchuk.org.
About Cancer Research UK
- Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.
- Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.
- Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on every pound donated.
- Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last forty years.
- Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that 3 in 4 people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years within the next 20 years.
- Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
- Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK’s vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.