Cancer Research UK and AstraZeneca sign deal to repurpose asthma drug that could fight kidney cancer

Cancer Research Technology (CRT)

Cancer Research UK and Cancer Research Technology – the charity’s development and commercialisation arm – have reached an agreement with AstraZeneca to take AZD2098, an experimental drug originally designed for asthma, into a clinical trial to treat kidney cancer.

"The fact that we can now search for new treatments for cancer among drugs that were already in development for other diseases demonstrates how much more we understand the basic nature behind what drives cancer." - Professor Tom Powles

This is the third agreement the parties have made under the Clinical Development Partnerships (CDP) scheme. CDP is a joint initiative between Cancer Research UK’s Drug Development Office (DDO) and Cancer Research Technology (CRT), to develop promising anti-cancer agents which pharmaceutical companies have not selected for further development and CRT is better placed to progress through early phase clinical trials. It is the ninth* treatment to enter Cancer Research UK's CDP scheme, with 6 having progressed into the clinic.

This deal with AstraZeneca will enable the charity’s Drug Development Office to complete preclinical development and carry out early clinical trials of the compound to see if it can benefit kidney cancer patients.  Cancer Research UK’s DDO is also funding the early phase trial of AZD2098 in which up to 40 patients will take part commencing in 2015.

AZD2098 targets a molecule found on immune cells called CCR4, which is important for directing these cells to where they need to go. It is thought that in kidney cancer, immune cells move to the tumour because of this molecule. Once the immune cells arrive, the tumour often forces them to become inactive, or worse, help the cancer develop.

By blocking this function, AZD2098 may change the immune cell environment around the cancer, encouraging those cells to attack the tumour. CCR4 has also been found to be expressed on the surface of cancer cells, which may provide an additional way for this blocker to impair tumour growth. The work establishing the potential anti-tumour effect of AZD2098 was carried out by Professor Frances Balkwill at Queen Mary University of London’s Barts Cancer Institute and was supported by Cancer Research UK.

Professor Tom Powles, trial lead and Cancer Research UK clinician at Queen Mary University of London, said: “I’m excited that we will be able to repurpose this drug for the treatment of kidney cancer. The fact that we can now search for new treatments for cancer among drugs that were already in development for other diseases demonstrates how much more we understand the basic nature behind what drives cancer.

 “AZD2098 potentially allows us to target the support network which helps keep cancer cells alive, and it may be particularly potent in kidney cancer. As cancer treatments become more and more refined and our ability to attack the disease from new angles increases, we hope to bring forward the day when we can cure this disease.”

Susan Galbraith, Head of the Oncology Innovative Medicines Unit at AstraZeneca, commented, “We are pleased to see AZD2098 being taken forward by Cancer Research UK to assess a novel hypothesis identified in translational studies led by Professor Frances Balkwill in collaboration with scientists at AstraZeneca.”

Around 9,600 people in the UK are diagnosed with kidney cancer each year and the incidence rates in Britain have more than doubled since the 1970s.

Dr Nigel Blackburn, Cancer Research UK’s director of drug development at the DDO, said: “We’re delighted to reach this agreement for such a promising new drug which can potentially wake up the immune system to help fight our cancer battles for us.

“This is the ninth drug from our CDP programme – without the scheme it simply might not have been possible to provide this drug to patients. We’ll continue to build on these successes to accelerate the development of further treatments though new trials of drugs which otherwise may not have reached patients for many years.

ENDS

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

*Drugs in the CDP portfolio:

AZD0424, AZD3965, DI-B4, SN30000, GSK1070916A, IMA950, AT13148, IL17-E.

Drugs in clinical trials:

AZD0424, GSK1070916A, IMA950, AT13148, AZD3965, DI-B4

There are eight drugs in the CDP portfolio – including a multipeptide vaccine, a monoclonal antibody and other molecularly targeted drugs. Six treatments have already successfully entered trials with others scheduled to open in 2015.

Queen Mary University of London

Queen Mary University of London is one of the UK's leading research-focused higher education institutions with 17,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students.

A member of the Russell Group, QM is amongst the largest of the colleges of the University of London. QM’s 4,000 staff deliver world-class degrees and research across 21 academic departments and institutes, within three Faculties: Science and Engineering; Humanities and Social Sciences; and the School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Queen Mary is ranked 11th in the UK according to the Guardian analysis of the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, and has been described as ‘the biggest star among the research-intensive institutions’ by the Times Higher Education. In 2012, a Queen Mary study was awarded Research Project of the Year at the Times Higher Education Awards. The university has been nominated again in 2013.

In 2014, Queen Mary was positioned 35th among 130 UK universities in the Complete University Guide and 36th according to the Guardian University Guide. The 2013-4 QS World Rankings placed us 115th of 700 universities worldwide and 19th in the UK, while the 2013 Shanghai Jiao Tong Academic Rankings of World Universities placed us in the top 30 in the UK and in the top 201-300 bracket worldwide.

QM has a strong international reputation, with around 20 per cent of students coming from over 150 countries. The university has an annual turnover of £350m, research income worth £100m, and generates employment and output worth £700m to the UK economy each year.

QM is unique amongst London's universities in being able to offer a completely integrated residential campus, with a 2,000-bed award-winning Student Village on its Mile End campus.

About Cancer Research UK's Drug Development Office

Cancer Research UK’s Drug Development Office has an impressive record of developing novel treatments for cancer. It currently has a portfolio of around 30 new anti-cancer agents in preclinical development, phase I or early phase II clinical trials. Since 1982, the Cancer Research UK Drug Development Office has taken over 120 potential new anti-cancer agents into clinical trials in patients, six of which have subsequently made it to market and many others are still in clinical development. Marketed drugs include Temozolomide (also known as Temodal®, Temodar and Temcad), a drug discovered by Cancer Research UK scientists, that is an effective new treatment for brain cancer and Abiraterone Acetate (also known as Zytiga®) which was co-discovered by Cancer Research UK scientists to treat advanced prostate cancer. Six other drugs are in late development phase III trials. This rate of success is comparable to that of any pharmaceutical company.

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