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Team wins prestigious global award for cancer drug success



Thursday 22 March 2012



A multidisciplinary team from The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and The Royal Marsden Hospital, which receives funding from Cancer Research UK*, has won a prestigious global award for its success in taking new cancer drugs from concept to patients.


This is the first time the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Team Science Award has been won outside the US.


The AACR said its decision was based on “the tremendous impact this team has had in preclinical and clinical studies of cancer therapeutics”.


The Team members are from the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit at the ICR, which discovers new drugs, and the Drug Development Unit at the ICR and The Royal Marsden, which progresses drug candidates into clinical trials.


Scientists from the ICR and The Royal Marsden discuss the strategy behind their drug discovery and development work, which has won the AACR Team Science Award

The AACR highlighted the team’s world-leading discovery of 16 innovative drug candidates over the past six years, and the progression of six of these drugs into Phase I clinical trials, including highly innovative and promising inhibitors of HSP90, PI3 kinases, protein kinase B/AKT and cyclin-dependent kinases.


The AACR also recognised the team’s work on BRAF and its inhibitors, the identification of inhibitors on CHK1 and Aurora/FLT3, and the discovery and development of abiraterone acetate. This new treatment for advanced prostate cancer, which is now licensed in the UK and the US, was an “outstanding example of how a highly functioning translational team can rapidly translate a biologic hypothesis into a new cancer therapeutic.”


“Overall, the work carried out by this multidisciplinary team over the last six years provides an outstanding example of the non-profit cancer drug discovery and development model that they have pioneered, as well as exemplifying a meritorious ability to collaborate productively with industry to accelerate patient benefit,” the AACR Award citation said.


Award Team leader Professor Paul Workman, Director of the ICR’s Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit, says: “I am proud and honoured to accept this award on behalf of our Team at The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden. The dedicated members of our multidisciplinary team are all individually experts in their respective fields of biology, pharmacology, chemistry and medical oncology. This expertise is really important –  but it’s also the very close collaboration between the scientists and doctors in our cancer research institute and partner hospital, as well as industry colleagues, that has really enhanced our ability to translate basic scientific research into new personalised cancer medicines.


“This award is a great endorsement of the academic drug discovery and development model that we pioneered. Most of all we are thrilled that we have been able to make a real and ongoing impact on the lives of cancer patients.”


Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “We’re delighted that Cancer Research UK-funded scientists have been recognised for their work in bringing more effective treatments to patients with this prestigious award. The great achievement reflects the often groundbreaking work that our researchers are leading, taking us closer to our vision of beating cancer.”


The members of the winning team are Professor Workman, Dr Bissan Al-Lazikani, Professor Julian Blagg, Dr Ian Collins, Dr Sue Eccles, Dr Michelle Garrett, Dr Swen Hoelder, Professor Keith Jones, Dr Spiros Linardopoulos, Dr Florence Raynaud, Professor Caroline Springer and Dr Rob van Montfort from the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit at the ICR, Professor Richard Marais from the ICR’s Division of Cancer Biology, together with Professor Stan Kaye, Professor Johann de Bono and Dr Udai Banerji from the Drug Development Unit at the ICR and The Royal Marsden.


The AACR Team Science Award “recognises an outstanding interdisciplinary research team for its innovative and meritorious science that has advanced or likely will advance our fundamental knowledge of cancer or a team that has applied existing knowledge to advance the detection, diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of cancer”.


The prize, which includes an honorarium of $50,000, will be presented during the opening ceremony of the AACR Annual Meeting 2012 on Sunday April 1 in Chicago, US.


Previously winners include St Jude Children’s Research Hospital for work on acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, the Dana-Faber/ Harvard Cancer Center for research into lung cancer and a team from Seattle for studies into the role human papillomavirus plays in cancer.




    Media Contact: ICR Science Communications Manager Jane Bunce on 0207 153 5106 or 
    after hours 077217 47900

* Funding was gratefully received from many sources including Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and Breakthrough Breast Cancer. The DDU also receives funding as an Experimental Medicine Cancer Centre (ECMC) and NIHR Biomedical Research Centre.


The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) is one of the world’s most influential cancer research institutes.


Scientists and clinicians at the ICR are working every day to make a real impact on cancer patients’ lives. Through its unique partnership with The Royal Marsden Hospital and ‘bench-to-bedside’ approach, the ICR is able to create and deliver results in a way that other institutions cannot. Together the two organisations are rated in the top four cancer centres globally.


The ICR has an outstanding record of achievement dating back more than 100 years. It provided the first convincing evidence that DNA damage is the basic cause of cancer, laying the foundation for the now universally accepted idea that cancer is a genetic disease. Today it leads the world at isolating cancer-related genes and discovering new targeted drugs for personalised cancer treatment.


As a college of the University of London, the ICR provides postgraduate higher education of international distinction. It has charitable status and relies on support from partner organisations, charities and the general public.


The ICR’s mission is to make the discoveries that defeat cancer. For more information visit


The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust

The Royal Marsden opened its doors in 1851 as the world’s first hospital dedicated to cancer diagnosis, treatment, research and education.


Today, together with its academic partner, The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), it is the largest and most comprehensive cancer centre in Europe treating over 44,000 patients every year.  It is a centre of excellence with an international reputation for groundbreaking research and pioneering the very latest in cancer treatments and technologies. The Royal Marsden also provides community services in the London boroughs of Sutton and Merton and in June 2010, along with the ICR, the Trust launched a new academic partnership with Mount Vernon Cancer Centre in Middlesex.


Since 2004, the hospital’s charity, The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, has helped raise over £50 million to build theatres, diagnostic centres, and drug development units. Prince William became President of The Royal Marsden in 2007, following a long royal connection with the hospital.


Cancer Research UK

  • Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research
  • The charity’s groundbreaking work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.  This work is funded entirely by the public.
  • Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival rates in the UK double in the last forty years.
  • Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to beat cancer.

For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 020 3469 6699 or visit

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