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Cancer Research Technology and Medivir to develop new class of cancer drugs

Published on 13/04/15 at 02:12pm

Cancer Research Technology and Medivir will join forces to develop a new class of drugs that has shown promise for treating a range of different cancers.

The collaboration will see the companies conducting a two-year research programme into small molecules targeting the protein ADAM8, which has been linked to tumour survival, cell invasion and metastasis.

“Exploratory studies indicate that ADAM8 is an attractive target across many types of cancer, and potentially other diseases driven by inflammation, and we look forward to further exploring that promise through this innovative collaboration,” says Dr Keith Blundy, Cancer Research Technology’s chief executive.

In a statement the companies say that blocking the protein in mice with pancreatic cancer prevented the spread of the disease, shrunk tumours and significantly extended lifespan. This is thought to be due to its involvement in cell adhesion, cell migration, inflammation and the growth of blood vessels – key processes that many cancers rely on for growth and development.

High levels of ADAM8 have particularly been linked with more aggressive tumours such as those in breast and pancreatic cancer, as well as brain, prostate, lung, head and neck, and kidney tumours.

Under the terms of the agreement Medivir will receive an exclusive global license to research, develop, manufacture and commercialise ADAM8 inhibitor drugs resulting from the programme. Cancer Research Technology, the commercial arm of Cancer Research UK, will get an upfront payment as well as milestones and sales royalties which are shared with the academic collaborators.

Preliminary research on the protein was conducted at King’s College London, where the initial patent application was filed. Further proof of concept studies were funded by Cancer Research UK at the university.

The new research will be led by Professor Jörg Bartsch, who previously worked at King’s College and now heads up the TransMIT-project division for research in neuro-oncology at TransMIT, in collaboration with Medivir.

 “We are very glad and excited to see this collaboration come to life,” says Bartsch. “The synergy of expertise between Medivir and our laboratory forms an excellent platform for successful exploration of this first-in-class approach to targeted therapy against ADAM8. This really is ‘bench-to bedside’ research at its best.”

Currently the areas of cancer research garnering the most excitement are immunotherapy and personalised medicine, and many companies have drugs in the pipeline covering these approaches.

George Underwood

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