Cancer Research UK has signed a deal with GlaxoSmithKline under which it will pay for early clinical trials of one of the pharmaceutical giant’s experimental cancer drugs, taking the first candidate in its novel Clinical Development Partnerships programme into human testing.

The charity’s CDP programme was constructed to help fuel the development of promising cancer candidates that have effectively been left on the bench by pharmaceutical companies as they are considered to be a low priority in times of limited funding.

According to CR UK, the concept offers pharma groups an alternative to the traditional out-licensing model in that they are able to hold onto the rights of their compounds throughout the development programme if they choose to do so.

Under the agreement, CR UK’s commercial division Cancer Research Technology will oversee a Phase I clinical trial programme with GSK’s aurora kinase inhibitor 1070916A. Aurora kinases play a key role in the control of cell multiplication, and it is hoped their inhibition could interfere with tumour growth.

Trial within a year
The trial, which is due to start sometime in the next year, will assess the drug in around 30 to 40 patients with advanced solid tumours who have tried all the treatment options currently available. If successful, the charity can then also choose to undertake Phase II testing.

Specific financial details were not disclosed, but on completion of early stage development GSK has the option to further develop and commercialise the molecule, in exchange for future payments to the charity. However, if the drugmaker decides not to take the programme forward, rights to the drug will be transferred to CRT so that it can sign up an alternative partner.

According to Dr Keith Blundy, chief executive of CRT, the partnership “demonstrates how Cancer Research UK and CRT can work with industry to speed up the development of anti-cancer drugs that might otherwise remain on companies’ shelves.”