Consortium signs deal with Basilea to develop resistance-busting cancer drugs

01 Apr 2015

A group of academic organisations and funders has entered an agreement with biopharmaceutical company Basilea Pharmaceutica Ltd. to progress a new family of cancer drugs designed to block several key cancer-causing proteins at once.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

The consortium, including The Institute of Cancer Research, London, the Wellcome Trust, Cancer Research Technology (CRT) and The University of Manchester, has granted Basilea exclusive worldwide rights to develop, manufacture and commercialise novel panRAF inhibitors.

The new drug class originated from research at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) funded by Wellcome Trust and Cancer Research UK.

The drugs have the potential to be used where a patient’s tumour has developed resistance to existing drugs targeting the BRAF protein, which is mutated in a range of cancers including 50% of melanomas and 10% of bowel cancers.

The drugs target both BRAF and the growth pathways that the cells come to rely on when they become resistant. It is hoped that the new drugs could be effective in patients who have developed drug resistance and exhausted all other available treatments.

Under the terms of the agreement, the consortium will lead phase I clinical development of the new drug, and Basilea will take over responsibility for clinical development after that. In return, the consortium will receive an upfront payment, and potentially milestone payments and royalties if the development of the drug is ultimately 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: "I'm delighted by today's announcement, which is excellent news for research into treatments for drug-resistant cancers. 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 Richard Seabrook, Head of Business Development at the Wellcome Trust, said: “Resistance to existing cancer drugs can be a tragedy for patients. By targeting multiple cancer-causing proteins, these new panRAF inhibitors could help overcome this problem and have the potential to be of great value in the clinic.”

Dr. Laurenz Kellenberger, Basilea’s Chief Scientific Officer, said: “We are excited about complementing our growing and maturing oncology pipeline with this novel program including a lead compound expected to enter clinical testing in 2015. 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.”

Professor Richard Marais, Director of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute at The University of Manchester said: “This agreement represents the culmination of over 10 years of academic research and we are pleased to see our basic research studies being translated into patient benefit. Melanoma is a devastating disease that kills over 2,000 people each year in the UK and we hope that these new drugs will provide new lines of treatment for these patients.”

Dr Keith Blundy, Chief Executive of Cancer Research Technology, said: “It’s always very rewarding to see a discovery involving Cancer Research UK funding making that vital first step into the clinic. This agreement is a great example of leading academic and clinical institutions working together with industry and the NHS to translate exciting new discoveries into new treatments that could benefit patients.”

Cancer is one of The University of Manchester’s research beacons - examples of pioneering discoveries, interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-sector partnerships that are tackling some of the biggest questions facing the planet.

Notes for editors

The Institute of Cancer Research, London, is one of the world's most influential cancer research institutes.

Scientists and clinicians at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) are working every day to make a real impact on cancer patients' lives. Through its unique partnership with The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and 'bench-to-bedside' approach, the ICR is able to create and deliver results in a way that other institutions cannot. Together the two organisations are rated in the top four cancer centres globally.

The ICR has an outstanding record of achievement dating back more than 100 years. It provided the first convincing evidence that DNA damage is the basic cause of cancer, laying the foundation for the now universally accepted idea that cancer is a genetic disease. Today it leads the world at isolating cancer-related genes and discovering new targeted drugs for personalised cancer treatment.

As a college of the University of London, the ICR provides postgraduate higher education of international distinction. It has charitable status and relies on support from partner organisations, charities and the general public.

The ICR's mission is to make the discoveries that defeat cancer. For more information visit

The Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health. We provide more than £700 million a year to support bright minds in science, the humanities and the social sciences, as well as education, public engagement and the application of research to medicine.

Our £18 billion investment portfolio gives us the independence to support such transformative work as the sequencing and understanding of the human genome, research that established front-line drugs for malaria, and Wellcome Collection, our free venue for the incurably curious that explores medicine, life and art.

About The University of Manchester

The University of Manchester, a member of the prestigious Russell Group of British universities, is the largest and most popular university in the UK. It has 20 academic schools and hundreds of specialist research groups undertaking pioneering multi-disciplinary teaching and research of worldwide significance.

The University of Manchester is one of the country’s major research institutions, rated fifth in the UK in terms of ‘research power’ (REF 2014), and has had no fewer than 25 Nobel laureates either work or study there. The University had an annual income of £886 million in 2013/14.

Cancer is one of The University of Manchester’s research beacons - examples of pioneering discoveries, interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-sector partnerships that are tackling some of the biggest questions facing the planet.

About Cancer Research Technology

Cancer Research Technology (CRT) is a specialist commercialisation and development company, which aims to develop new discoveries in cancer research for the benefit of cancer patients. CRT works closely with leading international cancer scientists and their institutes to protect intellectual property arising from their research and to establish links with commercial partners. CRT facilitates the discovery, development and marketing of new cancer therapeutics, vaccines, diagnostics and enabling technologies. CRT is wholly owned by Cancer Research UK, the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research. See:

About Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.  Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.  Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on every pound donated.  Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival rates in the UK double in the last forty years.  Today, 2 in 4 people survive cancer. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that 3 in 4 people will survive cancer within the next 20 years.  Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.  Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.

For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call +44 (0)300 123 1022 or visit Follow Cancer Research UK on Twitter and Facebook.

About The Christie

We specialise in cancer treatment, research and education. We are the first UK centre to be accredited as a comprehensive cancer centre

We are the largest single site cancer centre in Europe treating more than 40,000 patients a year.

We serve an immediate population of 3.2 million in the Greater Manchester and Cheshire area and also deliver a number of regional and national services from our main Christie site. Our patients are at the heart of everything that we do.

As a Centre of Excellence we focus solely on improving outcomes for oncology patients. We are able to provide services based on expert staff and a specialised infrastructure dedicated to the delivery of cancer treatment, care, research and education. Our focus and size enables us to uniquely deliver effective and efficient specialist care offering patients the best possible outcomes from our research programme.

Our charity, which is one of the largest in the UK, provides enhanced services over and above what the NHS funds.  It has over 30,000 supporters, who helped raise a record breaking £14.8m last year, with 83p in every pound going directly to patients

About Basilea

Basilea Pharmaceutica Ltd. is a biopharmaceutical company developing products that address increasing resistance and non-response to current treatment options in the therapeutic areas of bacterial infections, fungal infections and cancer. The company uses the integrated research, development and commercial operations of its subsidiary Basilea Pharmaceutica International Ltd. to develop and commercialize innovative pharmaceutical products to meet the medical needs of patients with serious and life-threatening conditions. Basilea Pharmaceutica Ltd. is headquartered in Basel, Switzerland and listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange (SIX: BSLN). Additional information can be found at Basilea's website