Main Menu

Rights Granted for Anti-cancer Agent


Friday 7 November 2008


A new anti-cancer agent that improves greatly on a conventional approach has today been taken-on by pharmaceutical company Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc, who will take it forward into clinical trials.  The drug, currently called BGC 945, has some similarities with more conventional antifolate drugs in that it kills cancer cells by inhibiting thymidylate synthase, a key enzyme necessary for DNA synthesis and cell division.  However the latest agent in The Institute of Cancer Research’s portfolio of drugs of this class, funded in part by Cancer Research UK, has been developed to more effectively target cancer cells.


BGC 945 (or ONX 0801, as it will be known in the next stages) was designed to enter cancer cells via ‘folate receptors’ which are expressed more highly in certain tumours such as ovarian, lung, endometrial and mesothelioma than in normal tissues.


Professor Ann Jackman, who leads the team that developed the agent at the Cancer Research UK Centre for Cancer Therapeutics and the Section of Medicine at The Institute of Cancer Research, says:


“Cancer cells derive much of their vitality and power from the high levels of activity in many of their internal mechanisms.  This drug exploits that activity and is enthusiastically absorbed by the tumour cells, killing them, while healthy surrounding cells appear to interact far less with the drug.”


The drug has been brought to this stage in a collaboration between The Institute of Cancer Research and life sciences company BTG plc (LSE: BGC), which owns the rights to it.  BTG plc today announced that it has granted worldwide rights to Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc. to develop and commercialise it.  The Institute will potentially receive over US$30 million from BTG, from the upfront and milestone revenues resulting from this deal as well as a royalty on any future sales worldwide.


Louise Makin, BTG’s chief executive officer says:


“Onyx has a strong track record in developing and commercialising novel cancer therapeutics, as evidenced by their success with Nexavar®, and we see the company as an ideal partner to take BGC 945 (ONX 0801) forward.  This agreement is in line with our strategy to realise value from our current pipeline as we focus new investments on acquiring and developing later-stage products.”


Professor Jackman adds:


“The Institute of Cancer Research has been a world leader in the development of antifolate drugs for several decades and we are pleased to see BGC 945 taking a big step towards possible public use.”


Professor Stan Kaye, Head of the Drug Develoment Unit at The Institute of Cancer Research and Royal Marsden NHS Trust says:


“This is an exciting new advance with real prospects as a targeted oncology agent, particularly in patients with ovarian cancer".


Media contact: For further information about this research, or about The Institute of Cancer Research, contact Mike Foster on 020 7153 5106, 07721 747 900 or [email protected].


-- ENDS --


Editor’s Notes:

•         The Institute of Cancer Research is Europe’s leading cancer research centre with expert scientists working on cutting edge research. It was founded in 1909 to carry out research into the causes of cancer and to develop new strategies for its prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care. For more information please visit  The Institute is a charity that relies on voluntary income. The Institute is one of the world’s most cost-effective major cancer research organisations with over 95p in every £ of total income directly supporting research.

  • The original discovery and all synthesis work were performed in the Cancer Research UK Centre for Cancer Therapeutics at The Institute of Cancer Research in a team led by Professor Ann Jackman, Professor of Biochemical Pharmacology, alongside lead chemist Dr Vassilios Bavetsias.  The Director of the Cancer Research UK Centre for Cancer Therapeutics is Professor Paul Workman.
  • The ICR has been a world leader in the development of novel antifolate drugs, including raltitrexed (developed in partnership with AstraZeneca and BTG) which is licensed for sale in many countries for the treatment of advanced colorectal cancer.
  • BTG in-licenses, develops and commercialises pharmaceuticals and has a broad pipeline of development programmes targeting neurological and other disorders including varicose veins.  The company also has a substantial and growing revenue stream of milestone payments and royalties from out-licensed products.  BTG operates from offices in London, Philadelphia and Osaka.  For further information, visit:
  • Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is a biopharmaceutical company committed to improving the lives of people with cancer by changing the way cancer is treatedTM. The company, in collaboration with Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, Inc., is developing and marketing Nexavar®, a small molecule drug. Nexavar is currently approved for the treatment of advanced kidney cancer and liver cancer. Additionally, Nexavar is being investigated in several ongoing trials in non-small cell lung cancer, melanoma, breast cancer, and other cancers. For more information about Onyx, visit the company's website at
  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to beat cancer.  Cancer Research UK carries out world-class research to improve understanding of the disease and find out how to prevent, diagnose and treat different kinds of cancer.  Cancer Research UK ensures that its findings are used to improvethe lives of all cancer patients.  Cancer Research UK helps people to understand cancer, the progress that is being made and the choices each person can make.  Cancer Research UK works in partnership with others to achieve the greatest impact in the global fight against cancer.  For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 020 7009 8820 or visit
comments powered by Disqus