Cancer Research Technology, the commercial arm of Cancer Research UK, and The Institute of Cancer Research, London, today announce a collaboration with Janssen Biotech, Inc., to discover a potential new multiple myeloma drug.
Multiple myeloma is the third most common type of blood cancer, with around 4,700 new cases and around 2,600 deaths each year in the UK. It is often effectively treated initially but many patients become resistant to treatment, and there is an urgent need for new therapies.
This collaboration will identify molecules and develop potential drugs blocking a key protein on a cell-signalling route called the unfolded protein response (UPR) pathway.
The UPR helps cells deal with stress caused by unfolded or misfolded proteins. If this stress cannot be corrected, cells die. Although myeloma cells produce an excess of proteins, they have developed mechanisms to cope with this stress, and the cells survive. The researchers therefore aim to block these mechanisms to trigger myeloma cell death.
A number of other cancers also rely heavily on the UPR and so although this work will initially concentrate on myeloma, any new drugs developed may also be useful for other cancers.
Teams at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), led by Dr Ian Collins in the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit and Dr Faith Davies in the Division of Molecular Pathology, will work alongside a team at Janssen. Cancer Research UK and Janssen will together fund up to 25 scientists, with Janssen providing some of the funding to support the research at the ICR in London.
Janssen will pay future milestones and royalties, and will lead on the clinical development of any potential drugs.
Professor Paul Workman, director of the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit and deputy chief executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, said: "Multiple myeloma patients urgently need new treatments and we are confident this exciting collaboration gives us a good chance of delivering for them. The ICR has a world-class record of developing new treatments and by working with partners in industry we hope to bring our findings from the laboratory to patients as quickly as possible."
Dr Laura Fletcher, Cancer Research Technology's associate director of business development, said: "CRT is thrilled to announce our first major collaboration with Janssen. There's an urgent need to find new drugs for this hard-to-treat disease and we hope that ultimately this joint effort will help save lives in the future. The drug discovery and biology expertise provided by Cancer Research UK-funded scientists at the ICR, and Janssen's extensive experience of oncology drug development, is an exciting combination which we hope will identify potential new drugs to hit this promising target."
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