Athenex, Cancer Research UK’s Combinations Alliance and the NIHR Clinical Research Network Industry Alliance have announced a partnership to test a chemotherapy drug that can be taken orally in early phase clinical trials.

The partnership will enable researchers to investigate Athenex’ innovative experimental drug Oraxol, the first oral formulation of the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel, in combination with other cancer treatments.

Paclitaxel works by blocking the growth of cancer, and is widely used for a range of cancer types, but currently can only be given intravenously through a drip.

The ability to take paclitaxel orally would expand opportunity for patients to have their treatment at home, rather than travelling to hospital regularly, and may reduce treatment delivery costs for health services.

Rudolf Kwan, Athenex’ chief medical officer, said: “Oraxol marks a significant step forward for the development of oral chemotherapies, potentially changing the way a large proportion of cancer patients receive chemotherapy treatment.”

He continued, “By working with Cancer Research UK’s Combinations Alliance and NIHR Clinical Research Network, our goal is to develop Oraxol in combinations that would not otherwise be possible, bringing new treatment options to more cancer patients.”

The clinical trials managed by this partnership will be academically sponsored and delivered with additional support and oversight from Cancer Research UK and NIHR Clinical Research Network.

Oraxol was recently awarded PIM (Promising Innovative Medicine) designation by the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), indicating that the regulator considers the drug to be a promising candidate for the UK’s Early Access to Medicines Scheme, which gives patients with life threatening or seriously debilitating conditions access to medicines before they are approved for use in Europe.

Athenex already has a strong presence in North America and Asia; with the new partnership between Athenex, Cancer Research UK and the NIHR Clinical Research Network Industry Alliance as part of a broader plan to move into Europe.