3 international charities to fund £30M post-Brexit cancer research model

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The five-year projects do not have set timelines for moving treatments into clinical testing, but they do plan to produce usable advancements within that time. (CC BY-SA 2.0/MPD01605)

Three major international cancer charities plan to invest about £30 million ($39.4 million) into six U.K. and European research projects, in a bid to provide a collaboration model for an uncertain post-Brexit world.

The partnership between Cancer Research UK, the Italian Association for Cancer Research and the Spanish Association Against Cancer is aimed at accelerating translational research at academic centers, in immunotherapies, CAR-T cell production, drug resistance, diagnostics and more.

“Our Accelerator Award funding will lay the groundwork for a Europe and U.K. research pipeline, boosting our life sciences industry, and ensuring basic biological research translates into new innovative treatments in future,” said Iain Foulkes, executive director of research and innovation at Cancer Research UK, adding that research must be prioritized as the U.K. works to build a new relationship with the European Union.

The five-year, near-equally funded projects do not currently have defined timelines for advancing any treatments into clinical testing, but the organizations do expect some deliverables within that time, Caroline Foxton, Cancer Research UK’s head of centers and institutes, told FierceBiotech.

“Whilst it is still too early to determine the impact of Brexit across Europe, it is clear that initiatives such as these are important for promoting collaboration across territories, to accelerate the rate at which progress in cancer research is made,” Foxton said.

The collaborations will allow for more than just the sharing of knowledge and expertise, but also tools, hardware and reagents, as well as time and effort, she said. In addition, the three charities hope to expand the partnership to include new members, with the potential to bring on biopharma companies to support transitions into the clinic.

U.K. scientists will take on two of the funded programs, while Italian scientists will lead three, and one will be led by a Spanish researcher. Some of the grants will also be focused on training early career scientists and clinicians.

The projects include the Hepatocellular Carcinoma Expediter Network, led by Newcastle University, which aims to link international liver cancer researchers focused on the immune system, tumor microenvironment and related therapies.

The University of Milan-Bicocca will head up the Innovative CAR Therapy Platform project, aimed at making CAR-T therapies more accessible and affordable by developing new manufacturing methods.

Researchers in the functional genomics of cancer unit at the Fondazione Centro San Raffaele will help track single-cell cancer evolution to learn more about drug resistance and help predict optimal treatment options following relapse.

Meanwhile, at the Clinica Universidad de Navarra, researchers will tackle the mechanisms of transformation and resistance in blood cancers while trying to identify new treatments.

The University of Trento’s Centre for Integrative Biology will focus on developing a blood test for selecting treatments for advanced prostate cancer, to stratify patients in clinical studies into personalized treatment arms.

And the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow will work to find new methods for personalizing colorectal cancer treatment, including through new targets and biomarkers to help lower the risks to patients in clinical trials and reduce the necessary amount of animal research.