Cancer Research UK (CRUK) and their charity and commercialization arm Cancer Research Technology (CRT) inked an agreement with AstraZeneca to take experimental drug AZD2098 into a clinical trial to treat kidney cancer. AZD2098 was originally designed to treat asthma.

CRUK says this deal with AZ will enable its Drug Development Office (DDO) to complete preclinical development and carry out early clinical trials of the compound to see if it can benefit kidney cancer patients. CRUK’s DDO will also provide funds for AZD2098’s early-phase trial starting in 2015.

This is the third agreement AZ and CRUK have made under the Clinical Development Partnerships (CDP) scheme, a joint initiative between CRUK’s DDO and CRT to develop anticancer agents that show promise, but pharmaceutical companies have not selected for further development and where it is deemed that CRT would be in a better position to progress them through early-phase clinical trials. 

According to AZ and CRUK, AZD2098 targets a molecule found on immune cells called CCR4, which plays a part in directing these cells to where they need to go. In kidney cancer, many researchers believe immune cells move to the tumor because of this molecule, whereupon the tumor either renders them inactive or forces them to help the cancer develop. AZD2098 may change the immune cell environment around the cancer by blocking CCR4, encouraging those cells to fight the tumor. CCR4 is also reportedly expressed on the surface of cancer cells.

Nigel Blackburn, Ph.D., CRUK’s director of drug development at the DDO, said in a statement that this is the ninth drug from the CDP program, and without the scheme it may not have been possible to provide this drug to patients.

“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,” added Tom Powles, M.D., trial lead and CRUK clinician at Queen Mary University of London.

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