Cancer Research UK-funded team wins top global research award

In collaboration with the Press Association

A Cancer Research UK-funded team has become the first non-US research group to win the prestigious American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Team Science Award.

The honour has been awarded to a team from The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and the Royal Marsden Hospital, which will be presented with the prize - including an honorarium of 50,000 US dollars (£31,500) - at the AACR's annual meeting in Chicago on April 1.

Cancer Research UK's chief executive Dr Harpal Kumar said he was delighted with the news.

"The great achievement reflects the often groundbreaking work that our researchers are leading, taking us closer to our vision of beating cancer," he said.

The AACR praised the group for its success at taking new cancer drugs from concept to patients, explaining that the decision was based on "the tremendous impact this team has had in preclinical and clinical studies of cancer therapeutics".

The team is made up of members of the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit at The ICR, which discovers potential new drugs, and the Drug Development Unit at The ICR and The Royal Marsden, which then takes them into clinical trials.

Professor Paul Workman, director of the Cancer Therapeutics Unit, said the award was a "great endorsement of the academic drug discovery and development model" it had pioneered.

"Most of all we are thrilled that we have been able to make a real and ongoing impact on the lives of cancer patients," he added.

The judges highlighted the team's world-leading discovery of 16 innovative drugs over the past six years, of which six had progressed to early Phase I clinical trials.

These included the highly innovative and promising drugs that target specific protein, including HSP90, PI3 kinases, protein kinase B/AKT and cyclin-dependent kinases.

Also recognised was the team's pioneering work on a protein called BRAF (which is the target of several drugs, including new melanoma drug vemurafenib), the identification of inhibitors on proteins called CHK1 and Aurora/FLT3, and the discovery and development of prostate cancer drug abiraterone.

The AACR said this new treatment for advanced prostate cancer was an "outstanding example of how a highly functioning translational team can rapidly translate a biologic hypothesis into a new cancer therapeutic".

Its award citation said: "Overall, the work carried out by this multidisciplinary team over the last six years provides an outstanding example of the non-profit cancer drug discovery and development model that they have pioneered, as well as exemplifying a meritorious ability to collaborate productively with industry to accelerate patient benefit."

Copyright Press Association 2012