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Grant Worth £4 Million Awarded to Develop New Cancer Drug


Wednesday 7 April 2010


Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) have been awarded a £4 million grant from the Wellcome Trust to develop a new breast cancer treatment.


A team at the ICR discovered drug-like compounds that can be used to block an enzyme from the PARP superfamily, leading to the death of some breast and other cancer cells. The grant will allow scientists at the ICR, in collaboration with drug discovery company Domainex, to examine all the potential compounds, and develop the best candidates to take into clinical trials.


The grant was awarded under the Wellcome Trust's Seeding Drug Discovery initiative, a five-year £91 million scheme to encourage the development of drug-like, small molecules. Projects selected must address an unmet healthcare need and have a realistic prospect of being developed further by the pharmaceutical or biotechnology market.


This award is the third the ICR has received under the Wellcome Trust’s Technology Transfer funding scheme. ICR scientists are already investigating two other drug targets using these funds: inhibitors of lysyl oxidase (LOX), an enzyme that promotes metastatic spread of cancer through the body, and of B-RAF, a protein encoded by a gene mutated in a range of human cancers including about half of malignant melanomas.


Study leader Professor Alan Ashworth, from the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre at the ICR, says: “This significant grant from the Wellcome Trust is testament to the quality of research at the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre and the ICR. We are delighted that the research programme is progressing well and we have the opportunity to take these drug-like compounds into the next phase of the drug discovery process.”


The ICR’s Director of Enterprise Dr Susan Bright says: “This enzyme is a promising therapeutic target, and preliminary work using Domainex’s unique technology has identified potential compounds that may function as inhibitors. The £4 million grant from the Wellcome Trust is a welcome endorsement of the work completed so far, and will allow us to fully investigate the possibilities of this new anti-cancer target and hopefully progress it into clinical trials. We shall continue to work closely with our collaborative partners in the implementation of the next phase of the project.”


- ENDS –

Media contact: Science Press Officer Jane Bunce on 0207 153 5106


Notes to editors:

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

For more information visit


Breakthrough Breast Cancer

  • Breakthrough Breast Cancer is a pioneering charity dedicated to the prevention, treatment and ultimate eradication of breast cancer through research, campaigning and education. 
  • The charity funds ground-breaking research, campaign for better services and treatments and raise awareness of breast cancer.  Through this work the charity believes passionately that breast cancer can be beaten and the fear of the disease removed for good. 

For more information visit



Domainex is a drug discovery company that provides services, including computational and medicinal chemistry, gene cloning and expression, to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and to academic research groups. It also offers a unique propriety technology known as Combinatorial Domain Hunting which is a patented method for expressing difficult protein targets. LeadBuilder is the proprietary lead generation platform that has been developed by Domainex to provide unusually rapid and cost-effective access to high-quality hits. As such, it is particularly well-suited to the needs of groups engaged in Translational Research, and emerging biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.  Domainex is also developing a pipeline of pre-clinical drugs. Domainex is based on the Cambridge Science Park, England, and has offices in the London Bioscience Innovation Centre.  

For more information visit


The Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is a global charity dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust’s breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests.

For more information visit

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