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GSK teams up with University of Leicester in search of cancer treatments

21 July 2016  •  Author: Niamh Louise Marriott, Digital Content Producer

A new collaboration between the University of Leicester and global pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) aims to discover and develop novel medicines to treat aggressive forms of blood cancer.

Professor Simon Wagner from the Department of Cancer Studies, leading the project said, “Currently patients are treated with combination chemotherapy, but the 5-year survival rate of between 50 and 60 per cent shows that there is a long way to go before we can adequately manage these diseases” said.

High grade non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is one of the most common forms of blood cancer, with more than 5,000 new cases reported each year in the UK.

Professor Simon Wagner from the Department of Cancer Studies, who is leading the project said, “Currently patients are treated with combination chemotherapy, but the 5-year survival rate of between 50 and 60 per cent shows that there is a long way to go before we can adequately manage these diseases” said.

“Amongst high risk patient groups, particularly the elderly, outcomes are even worse in part because this population has a lower tolerance to the bone marrow toxicity associated with existing treatments. We see an urgent unmet need for new treatments that can attack the cancer, without causing this significant damage to the bone marrow.”

GSK UoL collaborate cancer treatment

The new project is part of GSK’s Discovery Partnerships with Academia (DPAc) initiative and aims to discover and develop new molecules that can make a clinical impact in the treatment of patients with high grade non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Finding new and effective cancer treatments

Professor Wagner commented, “One of the major challenges in developing drugs to treat these diseases is the complexity of the protein targets, which makes it difficult to predict the way that potential drug molecules may act against the cancer cells.”

“For some years now, I have been working with Professor John Schwabe at the Leicester Institute for Structural & Chemical Biology to understand the proteins that drive this disease. We are now able to interrogate these proteins at a molecular level and it is these new insights that will enable us to tackle the problem from a fresh angle.”

Collaboration combines funds and expertise

Under the terms of the new agreement, the University will receive success-based financial support from GSK upon the achievement of key milestones, as well as an upfront payment and royalties on sales from any product that is successfully commercialised out of the collaboration.

Dr James Lapworth, from the University’s Commercialisation Office, said: “We are delighted – the new collaboration with GSK is a great opportunity to match Leicester’s clinical and academic strengths in oncology with one of the biggest drug discovery capabilities in the world. We are all anxious to see the results of this work, in the hope that we can bring forward promising new drugs to treat these aggressive diseases.”

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