MILLIONS of pounds are being given to a North East university for research into the development of new cancer drug treatments.
Newcastle University has cemented its reputation as a world leader in the fight against the illness as it has signed a £5m partnership with an international pharmaceutical company to develop new cancer drugs.
Astex Pharmaceuticals – a global leader in oncology drug discovery and development – will annually provide £1m funding for five years to Newcastle University to develop treatments to help increase survival rates.
The funding boost is aimed at developing new drugs, known as targeted cancer therapies, and to develop tests to determine which patients to treat and if new treatments are working effectively.
Astex, Cancer Research Technology Limited and Newcastle University have signed the multi-million pound drug discovery alliance and will work with researchers at the Cancer Research UK Drug Discovery Programme at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research at Newcastle University.
Prof Herbie Newell, co-director of the Cancer Research UK Drug Discovery Programme at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research, is leading the scheme.
He said: “It is an extremely important day for cancer research and for cancer patients in the North East.
“We are delighted to be able to form this exciting alliance as it represents an innovative route to the development of more effective cancer drugs by combining the partners’ expertise and experience. The research will bring together pre-clinical drug and biomarker discovery approaches.
“It will use molecular, genetic and clinical data to identify new targets in cancer cells that can be treated with drugs, and ultimately medicines to take into clinical trials that will provide new ways to treat the disease and increase survival.”
Targeted cancer therapies are drugs that block the growth and spread of cancer by interfering with specific molecules involved in tumour growth and progression.
Prof Newell said patients in the North East would be one of the first to benefit from clinical trials that would take place in the region.
“The fact that an international drugs company has decided to form an alliance with Newcastle University highlights the quality of research being undertaken in the region,” he added.
Astex will retain an option to an exclusive worldwide licence to develop and commercialise pharmaceutical products. Cancer Research Technology Limited and Newcastle University are eligible to receive development and regulatory milestone payments on products that Astex takes into development.
Dr Keith Blundy, Cancer Research Technology’s chief executive, said: “This major collaboration, which builds on the successes and impressive track record of all partners, will further develop Cancer Research UK’s world-class research into cancer treatments.
“Risk-sharing partnerships like this enable us to maximise the development of our basic research portfolio into new treatments for patients.”
Harren Jhoti, director and president of Astex Pharmaceuticals, said: “We are delighted to enter into this broad strategic drug discovery alliance with one of Cancer Research UK’s leading drug discovery centres as it allows Astex to access world-leading translational research in oncology.”
Recent statistics by Cancer Research UK show that every year around 14,700 people are diagnosed with cancer in the region.