Dr Udai Banerji
Academic Title: Clinical Senior Lecturer
Team: Clinical Pharmacology & Trials (CTU) and Cancer Biomarker Group (DDU)
Tel: 0208 661 3984
Location: Sycamore House, Sutton
The Clinical Pharmacology and Trials Team is responsible for the study of the preclinical and clinical pharmacology, and for the early clinical trials, of new anticancer agents developed in the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit. Such investigations may include the study of mechanisms of action and resistance, toxicology, pharmacokinetics, early dose-finding studies and the development of pharmacodynamic biomarkers for the measurement of drug action in tumour and surrogate tissues.
These may be molecular assays or functional imaging studies. The emphasis is increasingly on hypothesis-testing clinical trials of agents acting on new molecular targets including cell signalling, cell survival, the cell cycle control machinery, chromatin modulation and angiogenesis.
The Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics (DMPK) Group (led by Dr Florence Raynaud), within the Clinical Pharmacology and Trials Team, is a multidisciplinary group studying the pharmacokinetics of agents in clinical trials, such as 17AAG, 17DMAG and abiraterone. It is also leading the development of PI3K inhibitors. In addition, this group is evaluating the preclinical DMPK of novel chemicals under development in the Centre.
Early assessment of DMPK allows liabilities to be identified and the early implementation of strategies to optimise drug-like properties.
- Clinical development of new discoveries within the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit:
- Develop novel agents for cancer treatment.
- Discover, develop and apply new pharmacodynamic markers.
- Develop non-invasive imaging techniques for evaluation of pharmacodynamic effects of anticancer agents in tumours.
- Define the clinical context for novel targets and develop combination strategies for novel agents discovered at the ICR.
Dr Udai Banerji ensures clinical trials at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) are carried out to the highest possible standard, and manages patients involved in trials. He forms a crucial link between the ICR’s Division of Cancer Therapeutics, which develops anti-cancer agents, and the drug development unit in the ICR’s Section of Medicine, which carries out Phase I trials at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust to evaluate these new drugs. Dr Banerji is also a Clinical Senior Lecturer in Medical Oncology through the ICR’s position as a college of the University of London.
Dr Banerji completed his basic medical training in India and then worked briefly in the pharmaceutical industry, running oncology trials. He did his medical oncology training at The Royal Marsden and gained a PhD in molecular pharmacology at the ICR that focused on the applications of heat shock protein (HSP) inhibitors in cancer. He has been at the ICR and the Royal Marsden in different capacities since 2000.
Dr Banerji splits his time between the clinic and the laboratory. He is responsible for designing and supervising Phase I drug trials, and managing inpatients and outpatients trialing new cancer drugs. He has been involved in bringing many potentially important anti-cancer agents to the clinic. Among these are drugs that attack HSP90, a protein which cancer cells depend on, and other drugs that interfere with the P13Kinase pathway, which many cancer types ‘hijack’ to enable them to grow and spread. His other clinical interests include RAF/MEK, a biological pathway that stimulates cell growth which is known to be important in about 30 per cent of human cancers, and inhibitors for HDAC, an enzyme involved in gene expression and an attractive anti-cancer target.
Dr Banerji’s research focuses on developing new biomarkers – indicators of a person’s biological state. These include pharmacodynamic markers, tests which measure the biological effect of new treatments on the body, and predictive and prognostic biomarkers that can be used to work out whether a patient is likely to respond to a particular anti-cancer agent or if a particular biological characteristic of a tumour will make it behave aggressively.
Dr Banerji enjoys “working in a dynamic environment conducive to bringing research from the laboratory to patients”. His key goals are to accelerate the process by which new anti-cancer drugs are brought to patients, while also learning how existing drugs can be used more efficiently.
"We ensure clinical trials of new drugs are properly designed and the results accurately measured, so we can rely on the findings and make sure patients are receiving the best possible treatment options,” he says.
Outside work, Dr Banerji’s hobbies include distance running, mountaineering and playing string instruments.