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£2.5 million Cancer Research UK collaboration to target ‘undruggable’ RAS  

Scientists will develop and test promising new molecules for targeting RAS, one of the most common driving mutations in aggressive, hard to treat cancers including pancreatic and lung cancer.

Cancer Research UK and the Cancer Research Technology Pioneer Fund (CPF) have committed £2.5 million in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in the US to tackle one of the toughest challenges in cancer that has thwarted researchers for more than 30 years.

Scientists at the NCI in Maryland, US will work with the Drug Discovery Unit at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow, Scotland to develop gold standard tests to analyse these novel RAS inhibitors.

RAS initiative

This new collaboration links up with the NCI’s RAS Initiative which brings scientists together from around the globe to help develop drugs targeting the faulty protein. Launched in 2013, the initiative has established a hub of expertise that supports the international community in developments that could have huge clinical benefit.

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The CRT Pioneer Fund, managed by Sixth Element Capital, will be responsible for the commercial exploitation of compounds that arise from the collaboration.

For decades, scientists have been attempting to target RAS, but with little success. This is because RAS lacks an obvious site on its surface for potential drug molecules to fit into and inhibit its signalling.

Dr Martin Drysdale, head of the Drug Discovery Unit at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute, said: “Our team is determined to challenge the dogma that RAS is ‘undruggable.’ This collaboration is our biggest yet and will double our resource targeting RAS.”

“Instead of scientists working and thinking in isolation, the NCI has created a research hub to pull together all the best science and expertise. My team is looking forward to contributing and working with Dr Frank McCormick, who leads the RAS Initiative and who has been at the forefront of cancer science for many years.”

Dr Iain Foulkes, chief executive officer of Cancer Research Technology and executive director of research and innovation at Cancer Research UK, said: “It’s crucial that we unite the brightest minds across the globe. This international collaboration and investment could herald a new era in targeting RAS.

“We hope to develop these small molecules to pave the way for potential drugs in the future. Our aim is to work alongside industry to ensure any progress makes its way into clinical trials.”

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