Cancer Research UK, Cancer Research Technology (CRT) and UK biotech Bicycle Therapeutics have formed a pact to trial a first-in-class experimental drug for cancers of high unmet need.

Under the deal, CR UK's Centre for Drug Development will sponsor and fund a Phase Ia and Phase Ib clinical trial for a treatment called BT1718 - a Bicycle Drug Conjugate being developed by Bicycle - in patients with advanced solid tumours.

BT1718 targets Membrane Type 1 Matrix Metalloproteinase (MT1-MTP), which is highly expressed in many solid tumours, including triple negative breast cancer and non-small cell lung cancer, and thereby presents a promising target for treatment.

The trial will be co-managed by the charity and Bicycle and, as per the terms of the agreement, the firm retains the right to further advance the BT1718 programme, at which point an undisclosed payment split between cash and equity, success based milestones and royalty payments would be made to CR UK.

"Through this important collaboration we aim to advance BT1718 through Phase I trials, generating a robust dataset to drive the programme forward," noted Dr Kevin Lee, Bicycle's chief executive. "We're excited to have developed this innovative relationship with Cancer Research UK that allows us access to their extensive network of collaborators and world class expertise to fully explore the potential of this new and transformative class of treatment for cancer patients."

"Through this collaboration, we hope we can speed up the development of therapies for patients who urgently need new treatment options," added Dr Nigel Blackburn, CR UK's director of drug development.

The agreement marks the second for Bicycle in two weeks, having signed at the start of the month a potential $1-billion-deal with AstraZeneca to develop bicyclic peptides across respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic disease targets.

According to the Cambridge, UK-headquartered firm, Bicycle molecules exhibit an affinity and target specificity usually associated with antibodies, but have a low molecular weight that allows rapid and deep tissue penetration, enabling more efficient tumour targeting.

Furthermore, it says their peptidic nature provides a 'tuneable' pharmacokinetic half-life and a renal route of clearance, avoiding the liver and gastrointestinal tract toxicities often seen with other drug modalities.