Cancer Research UK’s Drug Development Office and Astex join forces to trial potential new cancer treatments

Cancer Research Technology (CRT)

Cancer Research UK’s Drug Development Office (DDO) today announced that Astex Pharmaceuticals will join its Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) Combinations Alliance with an aim to develop new cancer treatments.

“It’s incredibly exciting to have a third partner on board with the Combinations Alliance, giving the opportunity to test new combination therapies in the UK." - Dr Nigel Blackburn

The ECMC Combinations Alliance brings experimental drugs, owned by different pharmaceutical companies, into clinical trials so patients can have potential new cancer treatments involving new drug combinations sooner. These trials will test new therapies as part of treatments combining different drugs together with conventional chemotherapy, radiotherapy and new targeted treatments.

Astex Pharmaceuticals, a wholly owned subsidiary of Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd, is the third partner that Cancer Research UK’s DDO has brought into the Alliance alongside AstraZeneca and Lilly. The trials will be sponsored and delivered through the ECMC Network at hospitals across the UK. Astex will provide access to selected agents currently in development to be further studied through the Combinations Alliance as well as additional financial support*.

Dr Hazel Jones, Cancer Research UK’s head of combination therapies, said: “This collaborative partnership with Astex will identify multiple opportunities to improve treatments for cancer patients and presents a  fantastic opportunity for clinical researchers to design innovative studies with novel drugs across a range of cancer types.

“We are focused on increasing the number of partners in this initiative to ensure we offer a wider range of potential treatment options for future patients.”

Dr Jeremy Carmichael, senior director of business development at Astex, said: “Astex is excited to join the ECMC Combinations Alliance and to have the opportunity to add our novel agents into a pool of compounds that may offer patients improved treatments when given in combination with conventional chemotherapy, radiotherapy or with novel drugs from other companies. In particular, we are pleased to be able to access many of the leading clinical oncologists and clinical centres in the UK through a single network and we look forward to working with Cancer Research UK and the alliance members and to supporting investigator-led combination studies on our compounds.”

Dr Nigel Blackburn, Cancer Research UK’s director of drug development, said: “It’s incredibly exciting to have a third partner on board with the Combinations Alliance, giving the opportunity to test new combination therapies in the UK.

“The ECMC network brings together cancer doctors, nurses, scientists and trial managers to run clinical trials of new tailored treatments - and it’s thanks to the generosity and time of patients that it’s possible to develop these new approaches which could benefit thousands of patients in the future and help us beat cancer sooner.”


For media enquiries please contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8300 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.

Notes to Editor

* Two Astex agents showing promise in early phase trials are the first compounds to be made available by Astex for combination studies: SGI-110, a second generation hypomethylating agent, and AT13387, an inhibitor of the HSP90 (active in cellular stress) pathway.