Cancer Research UK and AstraZeneca Collaborate to Trial Combinations of New Cancer Drugs

CANCER RESEARCH UK’s drug development office (DDO) has signed a Strategic Combinations Alliance with AstraZeneca to take combinations of experimental cancer drugs into early phase clinical trials.The move will increase patient access to trials of potential new cancer treatments that combine molecularly targeted experimental drugs developed and owned by AstraZeneca. The trials will also test these combinations alongside conventional chemotherapy radiotherapy and other novel agents.


It is hoped that combination therapy using a number of molecularly targeted drugs may decrease the chance of patients developing resistance to any individual drug. This is because different types of drugs attack the faults in cancer cells at different points. 
These combination trials will be managed and run through the Cancer Research UK/ UK Health Department's Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) Network* at hospitals across the UK with support from Cancer Research UK’s Drug Development Office. AstraZeneca (AZ) will provide access to its drugs to be trialled through the alliance as well as additional financial support. The charity will also hold workshops with the ECMC Network and AZ to identify promising combinations of experimental treatments to trial.  
Kate Miller, Head of the combinations alliance at Cancer Research UK’s DDO, said: “We are delighted to be collaborating with AstraZeneca through the combinations alliance. This initiative will provide a huge boost to the UK research community in developing exciting new combination therapies and will mean that more UK patients will be able to take part in important clinical trials of potential new treatments”. 
“We are actively looking for additional partners who are interested in collaborating with us.
“Our plan is to take the model we’ve established with AstraZeneca forward by developing cross company agreements and providing access to a larger number of potential combinations to help us beat cancer.” 
Cancer Research UK’s Drug Development Office is adding value by mediating between the cross company partners and across the ECMCs.
Professor Andrew Hughes, Vice President, Oncology Clinical Innovative Medicines, said: “As we further understand the heterogeneity of cancer, we not only need to redefine the disease but also our solutions to it with the ultimate aim of restoring patients’ lives. The collaboration with Cancer Research UK and the ECMCs provides a key opportunity to redefining our solutions to cancer through combination treatments.”
Cancer Research UK and the ECMC Network have established clear processes to run early phase combination clinical trials through the ECMC Network. This includes peer-review of the scientific data and trial endorsement through Cancer Research UK’s New Agent’s Committee**.  
Kate Miller added:  “This partnership with AstraZeneca has enabled us to create a standardised way of evaluating and delivering combination studies through the ECMC network.” 
Dr Sally Burtles, Director of the Experimental Cancer Medicine Network, said: “It is incredibly exciting to have the opportunity to run trials of these promising new drugs which could potentially be used to treat a range of different cancers. 
“The ECMC network brings together cancer doctors, nurses and scientists to make it easier to run clinical trials of powerful new tailored treatments - and it is thanks to the generosity and time of patients that it is possible to develop these new approaches which could benefit thousands of people in the future.”
*About the ECMC
ECMC stands for ‘Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre’. ECMC status has been awarded to 19 centres in the UK that are specialist centres undertaking research into new cancer treatments. The aim is to bring together cancer doctors, research nurses and lab scientists to make clinical trials of new treatments easier and help develop powerful new treatments that are tailored to individual patients.
The ECMC initiative is funded by Cancer Research UK and the Departments of Health of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. They are giving a total of £35 million pounds over 5 years to the 19 centres. The centres will use this money to run trials of new and experimental treatments. They will also analyse thousands of blood and tissue samples (biopsies) to help find out more about how treatments work and what happens to cancer cells.
**Cancer Research UK’s New Agent’s Committee
The New Agents Committee (NAC) trials funding scheme provides a one-step process for selecting new anti-cancer treatments and diagnostics and taking them into early clinical trials.
The NAC was set up by Cancer Research UK's Drug Development Office (DDO) in 1998. All NAC submissions and meetings are confidential.
The NAC meets four times a year and comprises clinicians expert in early clinical trials of novel agents as well as other experts in drug development.


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