Other projects between the partners will study cancer tumour mutations and aim to better understand how the genetic makeup of an individual patient's cancer determines their response to treatment.
This represents a significant alliance between scientists from AstraZeneca's small molecule and MedImmune's biologics units and members of the Cambridge Cancer Centre, which brings together researchers across the region from the University, affiliated Institutes and the NHS.
Pancreatic cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer death in the UK and has an extremely poor prognosis and few treatments are currently available. Developing methods for earlier detection and new therapeutic strategies are crucial if survival rates, which have improved little in the last forty years, are to improve.
Babraham Scientists, together with Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, the Cambridge University Department of Oncology at Addenbrooke's Hospital and Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, will be evaluating new therapeutic approaches for pancreatic cancer patients. It is hoped that this two year collaboration on pre-clinical and clinical oncology projects between researchers and clinicians, will identify the best drug combination partners for AstraZeneca's investigational compound selumetinib in pre-clinical models.
Selumetinib, a molecule known as a MEK inhibitor, halts the activity of a particular biochemical signalling pathways within cells that are often overactive in certain cancers. It has been shown in Phase I/II studies to be clinically active and is tolerated, as both monotherapy and in combination with other chemotherapy regimens, in clinical studies across a range of solid tumours.
Susan Galbraith, Head of AstraZeneca's Oncology Innovative Medicines Unit said, "These are the first research collaborations AstraZeneca has signed with Cambridge-based partners since announcing our intention to build a world-class research and development centre on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus. It is fitting that the focus of these collaborations is on delivering new medicines for cancer because our Cambridge facility will represent AstraZeneca's largest centre for oncology research. We look forward to having our scientists work side-by-side with some of the UK's most distinguished medical institutions.
"All three of the collaborations we are announcing today advance our work in the area of personalised healthcare, helping us to understand and address the underlying mechanisms of disease so that we can find the right medicines for the right patients."
Dr Claire Cockcroft, Babraham's Knowledge Exchange Manager said, "Collaborative partnerships between world-leading research organisations, industry, clinicians and NHS centres will play an increasingly critical role driving the development of novel therapies and evaluating drug targets to address unmet healthcare challenges and improve patient wellbeing. Working together to increase understanding of the basic biology underpinning mechanisms of drug action and how patients respond to treatments will bring a more personalised approach to healthcare, where genome-based information will enable patients to be matched to the most appropriate treatments."
David Neal, Group Leader at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute and Honorary consultant Urological Surgeon at Addenbrooke's Hospital, said, "I am delighted about this partnership on the Biomedical Campus between AstraZeneca, the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute and the Cambridge University Department of Oncology at Addenbrooke's Hospital. It is a wonderful example of how collaboration between world-class Pharma and cutting edge Science will lead to benefits for patients through better understanding individual variation in cancer behavior."