Cancer Research UK will repurpose an AstraZeneca asthma drug for kidney cancer

Cancer Research UK has struck a deal with AstraZeneca ($AZN) to repurpose an experimental therapy originally developed by the drug giant for asthma and study its ability to fight kidney cancer.

Under the agreement, the nonprofit's drug development office will carry out preclinical testing and early clinical trials of the compound, AZD2098. Cancer Research UK plans to begin enrolling up to 40 patients in an early phase study in 2015.

"The fact that we can now search for new treatments for cancer among drugs that were already in development for other diseases demonstrates how much more we understand the basic nature behind what drives cancer. AZD2098 potentially allows us to target the support network which helps keep cancer cells alive, and it may be particularly potent in kidney cancer," said Tom Powles, trial lead and Cancer Research UK clinician at Queen Mary University of London, in a statement.

AZD2098 targets a molecule called CCR4, which is found on immune cells and helps direct these cells to where they need to go. In kidney cancer, CCR4 is thought to drive immune cells toward the tumor cell. When this happens, the tumor causes the immune cells that are redirected toward it to become inactive or, in the worst case, aid the spread of cancer.

Frances Balkwill at Queen Mary University of London's Barts Cancer Institute, with funding from Cancer Research UK, found that AZD2098 may be able to block this function by changing the immune cell environment around the cancer, instead stimulating those cells to attack the tumor.

CCR4 has also been found to be expressed on the surface of cancer cells, which may provide another technique for using AZD2098 to halt tumor growth.

This is the third agreement that AstraZeneca and Cancer Research UK have made under the Clinical Development Partnerships program, a joint initiative between Cancer Research UK's Drug Development Office and London-based Cancer Research Technology to develop promising anticancer agents that pharmaceutical companies have not selected for further development.

- read the press release

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