First Patient Receives Treatment for New Skin Cancer Drug Trial

Wednesday May 6th, 2015

The first patient to take part in a phase 1 clinical trial has received a new experimental ‘resistance-busting’ skin cancer drug. This patient started treatment at the Royal Marsden, and patients are also due to be treated at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester.

This new type of drug is known as a panRAF inhibitor. It is under development to address drug resistance problems in advanced skin cancer and several other types of cancer. PanRAF inhibitors block a number of significant cancer-causing proteins at once. These proteins include BRAF, which drives around 50% of all melanomas. Although existing BRAF inhibitors are intended to block the protein, the majority of patients develop resistance to them within one year.

The trial is led by scientists from The University of Manchester (Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute) and London’s Institute of Cancer Research. It is the result of a revolutionary research programme to design, synthesise and develop the new drug class.

It begins only three months after the potential of this new drug class was described in a major publication in the journal ‘Cancer Cell’. This new drug class has the potential to treat the most serious type of skin cancer, melanomas, which have become resistant or do not respond to existing therapies.

The drug is currently known as BAL3833/CCT3833 because it has yet to be given a formal name. The phase 1 trial is sponsored by the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR). It is funded by the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, the Christie charity, the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at the Royal Marsden and the Wellcome Trust.

A new consortium was announced in April 2015 to develop this drug class for patients after an agreement between Basilea Pharmaceautica International Ltd (based in Switzerland), funders and academic organisations. This consortium includes Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, Cancer Research Technology (CRT) the Wellcome Trust and the ICR. They have granted Basilea exclusive global rights to expand, construct and commercialise a series of panRAF inhibitors.

Full operational responsibility for the research programme will be assumed by Basilea after the phase 1 trial. Basilea is also working alongside the Cancer Research Manchester Institute to carry out biomarker research.

The trial is set to recruit about 25 patients who suffer with solid, advanced tumours. It focuses on advanced melanoma and aims to establish the maximum safe dosage for a planned phase 2 clinical trial.

Leader of the ICR’s research programme and professor of Biological Chemistry at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, Professor Caroline Springer, said that these new inhibitors are an example of an innovative approach to cancer treatment that knocks out numerous significant cancer treatments at once in order to treat cancers that have developed resistance to drugs that target one single cancer signal.