Cancer Research U.K. and Cancer Research Technology, the charity's development and commercialization arm, have reached an agreement with AstraZeneca to take AZD2098, an experimental drug originally designed for asthma, into a clinical trial to treat kidney cancer.
This is the third agreement the parties have made under the Clinical Development Partnerships (CDP) scheme. CDP is a joint initiative between Cancer Research U.K.'s Drug Development Office (DDO) and Cancer Research Technology (CRT), to develop promising anti-cancer agents which pharmaceutical companies have not selected for further development and CRT is better placed to progress through early phase clinical trials. It is the ninth treatment to enter Cancer Research U.K.'s CDP scheme, with six having progressed into the clinic.
This deal with AstraZeneca will enable the charity's Drug Development Office to complete preclinical development and carry out early clinical trials of the compound to see if it can benefit kidney cancer patients. Cancer Research U.K.'s DDO also is funding the early phase trial of AZD2098 in which up to 40 patients will take part, set to begin 2015.
AZD2098 targets a molecule found on immune cells called CCR4, which is important for directing these cells to where they need to go. It is thought that in kidney cancer, immune cells move to the tumor because of this molecule. Once the immune cells arrive, the tumor often forces them to become inactive, or worse, help the cancer develop.
By blocking this function, AZD2098 may change the immune cell environment around the cancer, encouraging those cells to attack the tumor. CCR4 also has been found to be expressed on the surface of cancer cells, which may provide an additional way for this blocker to impair tumor growth. The work establishing the potential anti-tumor effect of AZD2098 was carried out by Professor Frances Balkwill at Queen Mary University of London's Barts Cancer Institute and was supported by Cancer Research U.K.
Professor Tom Powles, trial lead and Cancer Research U.K. clinician at Queen Mary University of London, said, "AZD2098 potentially allows us to target the support network which helps keep cancer cells alive, and it may be particularly potent in kidney cancer. As cancer treatments become more and more refined and our ability to attack the disease from new angles increases, we hope to bring forward the day when we can cure this disease."
Around 9,600 people in the U.K. are diagnosed with kidney cancer each year and the incidence rates in Britain have more than doubled since the 1970s.