UK groups London Genetics and Astrimmune are joining forces under a new collaboration to plan a biomarker identification programme for an experimental vaccine for pancreatic cancer.

Astrimmune, a social enterprise group working on treatments for gastric cancer, is currently developing an early-stage vaccine candidate designed to induce the production of antibodies against gastrin, a hormone known to stimulate the growth of various gastrointestinal cancers, and thereby prevent the disease.

But other clinical trials of products blocking gastrin have shown huge variances in patient response, so it is hoped that effective biomarkers will help to identify those patients most likely to benefit from the vaccine, thereby creating a more targeted approach.

Under its partnership with London Genetics, a not-for-profit firm expert in the use of pharmacogenetics in clinical drug discovery and development, the companies will work together to create a proposal for identifying biomarkers predictive of response, utilising the expertise of London Genetics’ seven academic partners, which have access to an annual research budget of more than £650 million.

“Pancreatic cancer is an area of serious unmet medical need, with a five-year survival rate of around 5% and few treatment options. Availability of a biomarker to select those patients mostly likely to benefit from Astrimmune’s vaccine candidate can be expected to expedite the development of this product and increase its chances of coming to market in the future,” said the group’s managing director Fred Jacobs, commenting on the alliance.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the collaboration is being supported by a grant from the UK East Midlands Development Agency, one of nine Regional Development Agencies in England set up in 1999 by the government to bring a regional focus to economic development.