Clovis Oncology and Array BioPharma inked a drug discovery partnership centered on a treatment for gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) that targets KIT mutations, including exon 17 mutations, which are responsible for the development of resistance to existing tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Under terms of the deal the firms will collaborate on the discovery work, and Clovis will take over preclinical and clinical development, and commercialization of an identified candidate, as well as the development of a companion diagnostic to prospectively identify patients with specific KIT mutations.

While current GIST treatments such as Gleevec® (imatinib) and Sutent® (sunitinib) can inhibit some KIT mutations, about 50% of patients with progressive disease will develop secondary KIT mutations that thwart continued therapy with tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Unfortunately neither of the currently approved therapies, nor any of those in late stage development, can inhibit exon 17 mutations, the firms explain. The collaboration between Clovis and Array BioPharma aims to develop an oral GIST therapy that inhibits KIT mutations including all exon 17 resistance mutations.

“This program is highly complementary to our current programs, takes advantage of our experience in developing targeted therapies with companion diagnostics, and represents another cost-effective approach to building our pipeline,” comments Patrick J. Mahaffy, president and CEO at Clovis Oncology. “If successful, we would hope to file an IND within three years.”

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