Small molecule drug discoverer Sentinel Oncology has made an agreement with Oncothyreon toward developing Sentinel’s Checkpoint Kinase 1 (Chk1) program under which Oncothyreon will fund additional research done at Sentinel toward discovering therapeutics directed at the Chk1 target. The cancer-focused company is also receiving the rights to develop and commercialize any of the compounds that result from Sentinel's research.

Sentinel could receive up to $174 million in preclinical, clinical, and commercial milestone payments as part of this agreement, plus any royalties on net sales.

The Chk1 kinase inhibitors that Sentinel has developed, according to the firm, can selectively sensitize cancer cells to radiotherapy and chemotherapy, as the Chk1 protein plays a major role in cancer cells' ability to respond to DNA damage; as over 50% of tumor cells already have partially disrupted DNA repair mechanisms, they tend to rely on Chk1 more than healthy cells do. Using Chk1 kinase inhibitors in conjunction with chemo or radiation could make smaller doses of either more effective, so patients would endure fewer of the negative side effects associated with those treatments.

“Selective inhibitors of Chk1 have implications across a broad range of cancer types, and we believe this program has the potential to make a positive impact on the lives of many cancer patients,” Robert L. Kirkman, M.D., Oncothyreon's president and CEO, said in a statement.

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