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Drug discovery and therapeutic innovation

Here at The Institute of Cancer Research, we are a powerhouse of drug discovery. Since 2005, 10 of our drugs have entered clinical trials, and many more current cancer medicines are rooted in discoveries made here. The key to our success is team science, with ICR researchers working across disciplines to create innovative approaches to cancer therapeutics.

A scientist at work

The ICR hosts the world-leading Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit, which has discovered 20 new targeted drug candidates since 2005 – more than any other academic centre in the world. Ten of these have gone into clinical development.

In addition to this, abiraterone – a drug for prostate cancer discovered at the ICR – is now standard treatment for advanced prostate cancer and has benefited hundreds of thousands of men with the disease worldwide.

We also discovered how to genetically target the drug olaparib, which is now used on the NHS for treating women with ovarian cancer who have BRCA mutations, and has been approved in the US for a similar subset of women with breast cancer.

And our science underpinned the discovery of the drug classes BRAF inhibitors and PI3K inhibitors.

Over the coming years our focus, laid out in our research strategy, will be on the discovery of drugs designed to meet the challenges of cancer evolution and drug resistance.

We aim to discover greater numbers of exciting new cancer treatments, including a new drug targeted against a novel evolutionary mechanism, and a new immunotherapy.

As part of this, work has already begun to create new drug discovery facilities closely integrated with the work of our Centre for Evolution and Cancer.

We will also combine current therapies in new ways, applying our understanding of cancer’s complex signalling networks to block the paths to resistance.

And we will lead advances in adaptive therapy by developing rapid tests to assess treatment response and resistance.

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