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First Patient Treated in Phase II Trial of Anticancer Hsp90 Inhibitor


Wednesday 17 March 2010


The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) is to receive a milestone payment triggered by the first patient receiving a drug it helped develop in a Phase II clinical trial.


The drug, an Hsp90 inhibitor known as AUY-922, is being tested in a range of cancers. It works by targeting and inactivating a crucial molecule called Hsp90, which cancer cells are dependant on for growth. Hsp90 is a molecular chaperone – a helper molecule that is essential for the cancer-causing properties of the products of many cancer genes.


Early work was carried out by scientists at the ICR to exploit their understanding of the molecular structure and function of Hsp90 and to identify small molecule inhibitors that blocked the growth of cancer cells. Continued work was the result of a collaboration established in March 2002 between the ICR, Cancer Research Technology (CRT) and pharmaceutical company Vernalis. Vernalis subsequently entered a partnership with Novartis and is receiving a US$3 million (£2 million) payment to mark this development milestone. Under the terms of the agreement, Vernalis pays the ICR and CRT a proportion of these milestone payments as well as royalty payments following successful commercialisation of the programme.


Professor Paul Workman, Director of the Cancer Research UK Centre for Cancer Therapeutics at the ICR, says: “Hsp90 is essential for the cancer-causing properties of the products of a large number of cancer genes. This is why Hsp90 drugs have the potential to treat many tumour types. We are looking forward to seeing the results from the current Phase II proof of concept trial which Novartis has indicated are targeted for 2010. We are excited about the prospects for AUY-922 and are very pleased that it has moved a step closer to becoming widely available for cancer patients.”



Media Contact: Science Press Officer Jane Bunce or 0207 153 5106


The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR)

  • The ICR is Europe’s leading cancer research centre
  • The ICR has been ranked the UK’s top academic research centre, based on the results of the Higher Education Funding Council’s Research Assessment Exercise
  • The ICR works closely with partner The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust to ensure patients immediately benefit from new research. Together the two organisations form the largest comprehensive cancer centre in Europe
  • The ICR has charitable status and relies on voluntary income, spending 95 pence in every pound of total income directly on research
  • As a college of the University of London, the ICR also provides postgraduate higher education of international distinction
  • Over its 100-year history, the ICR’s achievements include identifying the potential link between smoking and lung cancer which was subsequently confirmed, discovering that DNA damage is the basic cause of cancer and isolating more cancer-related genes than any other organisation in the world
  • The ICR is home to the world’s leading academic cancer drug development team. Several important anti-cancer drugs used worldwide were synthesised at the ICR and it has discovered an average of two preclinical candidates each year over the past five years

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