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Scientists honoured at the AACR conference

A multidisciplinary team from The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and The Royal Marsden Hospital, which receives funding from Cancer Research UK*, has won a prestigious global award for its success in taking new cancer drugs from concept to patients. 

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This is the first time the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Team Science Award has been won outside the US.

The AACR said its decision was based on “the tremendous impact this team has had in preclinical and clinical studies of cancer therapeutics”.

The Team members are from the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit at the ICR, which discovers new drugs, and the Drug Development Unit at the ICR and The Royal Marsden, which progresses drug candidates into clinical trials.

The AACR highlighted the team’s world-leading discovery of 16 innovative drug candidates over the past six years, and the progression of six of these drugs into Phase I clinical trials, including highly innovative and promising inhibitors of HSP90, PI3 kinases, protein kinase B/AKT and cyclin-dependent kinases.

Update 2016-07-26: the ICR has now discovered 20 drug candidates, nine of which have entered clinical trials, one of which has been approved by NICE (Abiraterone).

The AACR also recognised the team’s work on BRAF and its inhibitors, the identification of inhibitors on CHK1 and Aurora/FLT3, and the discovery and development of abiraterone acetate. This new treatment for advanced prostate cancer, which is now licensed in the UK and the US, was an “outstanding example of how a highly functioning translational team can rapidly translate a biologic hypothesis into a new cancer therapeutic.”

“Overall, the work carried out by this multidisciplinary team over the last six years provides an outstanding example of the non-profit cancer drug discovery and development model that they have pioneered, as well as exemplifying a meritorious ability to collaborate productively with industry to accelerate patient benefit,” the AACR Award citation said.

Award Team leader Professor Paul Workman, Director of the ICR’s Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit, says: “I am proud and honoured to accept this award on behalf of our Team at The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden. The dedicated members of our multidisciplinary team are all individually experts in their respective fields of biology, pharmacology, chemistry and medical oncology. This expertise is really important –  but it’s also the very close collaboration between the scientists and doctors in our cancer research institute and partner hospital, as well as industry colleagues, that has really enhanced our ability to translate basic scientific research into new personalised cancer medicines.

 “This award is a great endorsement of the academic drug discovery and development model that we pioneered. Most of all we are thrilled that we have been able to make a real and ongoing impact on the lives of cancer patients.”

Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “We’re delighted that Cancer Research UK-funded scientists have been recognised for their work in bringing more effective treatments to patients with this prestigious award. The great achievement reflects the often groundbreaking work that our researchers are leading, taking us closer to our vision of beating cancer.”

The members of the winning team are Professor Workman, Dr Bissan Al-Lazikani, Professor Julian Blagg, Dr Ian Collins, Dr Sue Eccles, Dr Michelle Garrett, Dr Swen Hoelder, Professor Keith Jones, Dr Spiros Linardopoulos, Dr Florence Raynaud, Professor Caroline Springer and Dr Rob van Montfort from the Cancer Research UK CancerTherapeutics Unit at the ICR, Professor Richard Marais from the ICR’s Division of Cancer Biology, together with Professor Stan Kaye, Professor Johann de Bono and Dr Udai Banerji from the Drug Development Unit at the ICR and The Royal Marsden.

 The AACR Team Science Award “recognises an outstanding interdisciplinary research team for its innovative and meritorious science that has advanced or likely will advance our fundamental knowledge of cancer or a team that has applied existing knowledge to advance the detection, diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of cancer”.

The prize, which includes an honorarium of $50,000, was presented during the opening ceremony of the AACR Annual Meeting 2012 on Sunday April 1 in Chicago, US.

Previously winners include St Jude Children’s Research Hospital for work on acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, the Dana-Faber/ Harvard Cancer Center for research into lung cancer and a team from Seattle for studies into the role human papillomavirus plays in cancer.

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