The UK’s Silence Therapeutics has been boosted by the news that dosing has begun in a Phase I study of its RNA interference drug for the treatment of advanced solid tumours.

The company, which is based in London and Berlin, says that the study, at the Cancer Hospital SanaFontis in Freiburg, Germany, will address the safety, tolerability and pharmacokinetics of Atu027 and will take 18 months to complete. Atu027, which delivers short interfering RNA (siRNA) - which ‘silences’ the genes involved in cancer growth and metastases, specifically targets PKN3, a molecule involved in the formation of tumours.

Chief executive Iain Ross said Silence is pleased that the trial is now under way, having been given the all clear by German regulators earlier this month. He added that Atu027, which uses the firm’s AtuPLEX delivery technology, “could be a valuable option for patients who do not respond to standard therapy”.

Aside from Atu027, Silence has a “multi-year, multi-target” siRNA collaboration in place with AstraZeneca and it is also using its know-how to aid the development of Pfizer/Quark Pharmaceuticals’ early-stage compound for age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and other indications.