Oxford Cancer Biomarkers formed a new pact with AstraZeneca for biomarker discovery, with the potential for further collaboration on validation and development of resulting biomarkers.

OCB, the UK-based firm developing tests that allow oncology medicines to be personalised, will work with an undisclosed AstraZeneca cancer drug to discover biomarkers that have the potential to predict patients who will - or will not - respond to the drug.

Under the agreement, AstraZeneca has been granted an option to license biomarkers from the programme. The Anglo-Swedish firm already has a number of cancer medicines on the market, including its lung cancer drug Iressa.

This drug, which targets the genetic mutation EGFR, has a biomarker diagnostic TheraScreen, which was developed by diagnostic specialist DxS to test for EGFR, and therefore the patients who would likely benefit from the drug.

Nick McCooke, chief executive of Oxford Cancer Biomarkers, which is a spin-out firm from the University of Oxford, said: “The discovery and development of biomarkers of drug response is becoming an essential component of cancer drug development and commercialisation.

“With more targeted treatments being made available for more defined patient populations, the need for companion diagnostics is growing. We are a young company but already making a name for ourselves in the cancer biomarkers space, and we are delighted to be working with AstraZeneca on this important programme.”

Andrew Hughes, VP of clinical oncology at AstraZeneca, said: “Identifying the right patients is key for the development of AstraZeneca’s targeted oncology drugs. We are excited to be working with Oxford Cancer Biomarkers to explore how their novel approaches can contribute to our biomarker strategy in the early stages of drug development.”

Oxford Cancer Biomarkers uses its proprietary platform CancerNav to generate predictive biomarkers for cancer drugs and says it has already proven its platform through from biomarker discovery to clinical validation.