The Cancer Research Technology (CRT) Pioneer Fund today (Thursday) announced an investment to develop a promising new class of drugs for blood cancer.
The funding will support Cancer Research UK-funded scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, who are designing the drugs, to treat patients with Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma – a sub-type of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
The CRT Pioneer Fund was launched in 2012 by CRT, the commercialisation arm of Cancer Research UK, and the European Investment Fund (EIF) in 2012 to bridge the funding gap between cancer drug discovery and early drug development. It is managed by Sixth Element Capital LLP and has received additional investment from investment company BACIT Limited.
The drugs will target a protein called B-Cell Lymphoma 6 (BCL6). It plays an important role in maintaining levels of antibody-secreting B-cells in the blood, and is an essential part of the body’s immune defences. Research shows that BCL6 is overactive in patients with Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma and that this helps drive cancer growth. This suggests that drugs designed to inhibit BCL6 could help to treat the disease.
Ian Miscampbell, managing partner of Sixth Element Capital LLP, said: “We’re delighted to announce the CRT Pioneer Fund’s investment in the BCL6 project and to be collaborating with the Institute of Cancer Research and their world class team once again. This investment will pave the way for potential new cancer drugs to be developed and taken into phase I clinical trials.”
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma affects around 13,400 people in the UK each year and around 4,800 people die from it. Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma is the most common type of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, accounting for about 40 per cent of cases.
Professor Paul Workman, chief executive of the ICR, said: “Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma is a fast-growing and all-too-often deadly cancer. Current therapies for the disease have serious side effects and many patients relapse. We need innovative new ways of treating the disease to give patients their best chance of overcoming it.
“The support from the CRT Pioneer Fund will help us to make progress with this challenging project, with the aim of designing a whole new class of potential cancer drugs that target BCL6 – a protein that is crucial for the cancer’s rapid progression.”
Dr Phil L’Huillier, Cancer Research Technology's director of business development, said: “We’re delighted that the CRT Pioneer Fund is providing key investment exactly where it’s needed, to help accelerate this potential new treatment through to early clinical trials, so it can start to benefit patients as quickly as possible. This announcement marks the ninth investment made by the CPF, providing potential new options for patients that might otherwise never have made it beyond the lab.”