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20 November, 2023 - 10:58 By Tony Quested

Astex and AstraZeneca hail latest triumph with new breast cancer drug

A long-standing alliance between Cambridge life science duo Astex Pharmaceuticals and AstraZeneca has borne fruit – thanks to the sale of a new cancer drug in the United States.

Astex is now in line for an unspecified milestone payment from AstraZeneca plus royalties on future sales of Truqap™ plus Faslodex® as a treatment for adult patients with HR-positive, HER2-negative locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer with one or more biomarker alterations. This follows a key FDA approval.

Eligible patients will have progressed on at least one endocrine-based regimen in the metastatic setting or experienced recurrence on or within 12 months of completing adjuvant therapy.

Astex is dedicated to the discovery and development of novel small molecule therapeutics for oncology and diseases of the central nervous systems.

This is the third cancer drug in the last five years to reach market approval that has been discovered and developed under, or subsequent to, an Astex drug discovery collaboration.

Astex’s other partnered programs that have been highly successful in translating research into new cancer medicines include Novartis’ Kisqali®(ribociclib) and Janssen’s BALVERSA® (erdafitinib).

Truqap is a first-in-class oral targeted inhibitor of the cancer-driving protein AKT, also known as PKB. AKT is an enzyme that plays a key role in the PI3K/AKT tumour cell survival pathway and dysregulation of this pathway leads to tumour resistance to a number of important anti-cancer medicines.

Truqap was discovered by AstraZeneca following an earlier drug discovery research collaboration between Astex, The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and Cancer Research Technology (CRT; now Cancer Research Horizons) that was signed in 2003.

As part of that earlier foundational research, Astex and The Institute of Cancer Research used the 3D X-ray crystal structure of the AKT protein target to identify small molecule modulators of AKT activity using an approach known as fragment-based drug discovery.

In 2005 a series of prototype drug compounds discovered by Astex and the ICR was shown to have very promising activity against a range of human tumors grown in mice and was licensed to AstraZeneca.

And in 2010, AstraZeneca announced its discovery of Truqap, and began to develop the drug as a potential treatment for various forms of cancer. 

Harren Jhoti, President and CEO of Astex, UK, said: “We are incredibly proud that another of our drug discovery partnerships has resulted in such a successful outcome.

“We applaud our valued colleagues at AstraZeneca for their tenacity and exceptional work in the discovery and development of this first-in-class medicine.

“The early research was a great collaborative effort, and I would like to acknowledge the impressive pioneering research carried out by our colleagues at the ICR, including solving the 3D crystal structure of AKT, which was vital in enabling our initial drug discovery approach.

“This is also a great example of UK Biotech-Academia-Pharma collaboration and underlines the strength of the UK life sciences ecosystem.”

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