Consortium signs deal with Basilea to develop targeted cancer therapy

Clinical Phase I testing of panRAF kinase inhibitors is expected to start this year

Swiss biopharmaceutical company Basilea Pharmaceutica has entered into a licensing agreement for novel panRAF kinase inhibitors with a group of academic organisations and funders.

The consortium includes The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London, Cancer Research Technology, the Wellcome Trust and The University of Manchester.

The new class of drugs originated from research at the ICR funded by Cancer Research UK and the Wellcome Trust.

RAF kinases play an important role in tumour cell proliferation. The oral, small molecule panRAF inhibitors target BRAF and other growth pathways relied upon by resistant tumour cells. These properties allow anti-cancer activity in a range of tumour models including those resistant to anti-BRAF therapy associated with a number of marketed anti-cancer drugs.

The agreement provides the foundation for the clinical development of this exciting new drug class

Under the terms of the agreement, the consortium will lead clinical Phase I testing for the new drug and Basilea will take over responsibility for clinical development thereafter. In return, the consortium will receive an unspecified upfront payment and potentially milestone payments and royalties if the development of the drug is successful.

A Phase I clinical trial is expected to start later this year at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester. The trial will be funded by the Wellcome Trust, the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at The Royal Marsden and the ICR, and The Christie charity.

Professor Caroline Springer, Professor of Biological Chemistry at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: 'The agreement provides the foundation for the clinical development of this exciting new drug class. It is an important milestone in efforts to tackle resistance to existing cancer therapies and provide new options for cancer patients.'

Dr Laurenz Kellenberger, Basilea's Chief Scientific Officer, said: 'The available data show that this novel class of panRAF inhibitors are active in tumours which have developed resistance to currently available RAF kinase inhibitors and have the potential to offer new treatment options for melanoma as well as additional cancer indications.'

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