As part of its bid to build “a world-class oncology franchise”, Abbott Laboratories has linked up with Genentech to develop and commercialise two of the former’s early-stage cancer compounds.

The two drugs, known as ABT-263 and ABT-869, “are targeted therapies that represent promising, unique scientific approaches to treating cancer”, Abbott claims. ABT-263, a Bcl-2 family protein antagonist, restores apoptosis in a variety of cancer cells, while ABT-869 is a vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-2 -based multi-targeted kinase inhibitor, which prevents the growth of new blood vessels that supply the tumour with oxygen and nutrients and by inhibiting key angiogenic signalling pathways. It works in a similar way to Genentech’s blockbuster Avastin (bevacizumab).

Both compounds are currently in Phase I in a number of tumour types, though Phase II trials for ABT-869 are scheduled begin this year. The firms will co-promote any resulting products from the collaboration in the USA, while Abbott retains the rights to other markets and financial terms of the deal will not be disclosed. Apart from these two drugs, scientists at both companies will also conduct additional follow-on research in the area of Bcl-2 family protein antagonists and VEGFR-targeted kinase inhibitors.

John Leonard, vice president of global pharmaceutical R&D at Abbott, said it takes “significant resources to discover and develop new medicines. We believe that our collaboration with Genentech, in addition to our pipeline of other cutting-edge scientific approaches to fighting cancer, will allow Abbott to build a world-class oncology franchise." Hal Barron, the biotechnology group’s senior vice president of development and chief medical officer, added that “we believe that these molecules are strong complements to our existing anti-angiogenesis and apoptosis R&D programmes and have the potential to broaden our pipeline with important, innovative compounds."

Abbott is not known for its oncology franchise but the firm noted that its pipeline includes ABT-751, an oral anti-mitotic in Phase II studies for non-small cell lung cancer and neuroblastoma, ABT-888, a poly ADP-ribose polymerase inhibitor that can prevent DNA damage repair in cells “and thereby enhance the effectiveness of current cancer therapies”, and ABT-828, a biologic anti-tumour agent with a novel mechanism of action.