Cancer Research Technology (CRT) and the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) have forged a new alliance with US group Astex Pharmaceuticals with the aim of discovering and developing drug candidates for blood cancer. 

The groups are putting their strengths together to target an undisclosed epigenetic target in a blood cancer "with high unmet medical need".

Epigenetic mechanisms are responsible for regulating gene expression, and epigenetic gene dysregulation is a suspected trigger in the development of a growing number of illnesses, including some cancers.

Specific mutations have already been disease etiology in some cases, "providing an opportunity to develop highly targeted personalised medicines and associated companion diagnostics that will ultimately improve survival and reduce side effects", according to CR UK.

The partnership will utilise Astex’s fragment-based drug discovery platform and epigenetic drug development experience, ICR’s expertise in blood cancer biology and the drug discovery capabilities of CRT, the commercial arm of Cancer Research UK, in the hope of fueling the development of new experimental medicines.

Improving survival

“We hope that this research will lead to the development of new drugs to ultimately improve survival for cancer patients," said Phil L’Huillier, director of business management at CRT, commenting on the alliance.

The partnership builds on a previous collaboration between the groups formed in 2003, regarding another cancer target, PKB/Akt, which has generated two clinical candidates.  

AZD5363 is currently undergoing Phase I testing by partner AstraZeneca, while AT13148 is about to be taken into Phase I under a development partnership with CR UK.