Stem Cell Therapeutics (SCT) said today it entered into an option agreement to exclusively license worldwide rights to a series of prostate cancer stem cell assets from the UK’s University of York. The value of the agreement was not disclosed.

“This agreement provides Stem Cell Therapeutics with an opportunity to evaluate several highly promising therapeutic targets, all of which are expressed on prostate cancer stem cells, as well as on other types of cancers,” SCT CSO Bob Uger, Ph.D., said in a statement. “We will extend this research into the generation of monoclonal antibodies to these targets, with an ultimate goal of identifying new therapeutic development candidates.”

SCT said the agreement will contain an initial license consideration, milestone payments, royalties on sales, and sublicensing terms. The assets originate from research funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research (YCR)—the cancer charity supporting research in Yorkshire, United Kingdom—and conducted in the YCR Cancer Research Unit, University of York, whose director is Norman J. Maitland, Ph.D., a professor of molecular biology.

“We plan to exploit more than 10 years of research into prostate cancer stem cells in York to develop new treatments for the benefit of patients here and around the world,” Dr. Maitland said in a statement.

Dr. Maitland’s research group studies human prostate cancer development and etiology, using fragments of real tumors donated by men with the disease, with much of the research focused on testing hypotheses through multicellular in vitro models, and xenograft in vivo models of tumor development/metastasis. The group has compiled gene expression profiles for various cell types present in prostate tumors and in normal prostate tissue, and have mined data for genes and signaling pathways that affect cell fate.

Maitland’s lab has demonstrated that heterogeneity within human prostate cancers is due to two independent events—carcinogenic changes and aberrant differentiation—and has identified new treatment approaches that hold potential to delay or prevent tumor recurrence. The group has also shown that prostate cancer stem cells have an active resistance mechanism to conventional therapies such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy, which helps explain how prostate cancer stem cells form a base for post-therapy recurrence.

Execution of a definitive license agreement is subject to final due diligence and to the company meeting undisclosed conditions over the next six to nine months, according to SCT.

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