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Drug giants pair up over cancer treatment


Two of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies have announced that they will join forces to develop a pair of drugs used as a combination treatment in the fight against cancer.

Anglo-Swedish firm AstraZeneca and US-based drugmaker Merck said they will combine efforts with Merck’s MK-2206 and AstraZeneca’s AZD6244, both of which are still in very early development.

It is unusual for major pharmaceutical companies to form such a partnership at this stage over a combination treatment, as it normally occurs only when each company has a drug either already on the market or in final human testing.

London-based AstraZeneca and Merck, of New Jersey, said that laboratory testing in cells and animals shows the combination has potential as an anticancer drug and that by working together they could speed up the delivery of the treatment to patients.

The drug candidates are currently in separate early-stage and mid-stage human studies. The deal will see both companies jointly evaluate the combination in a phase I clinical trial and share the costs.

Each drug targets a different protein that is abnormally activated in cancer, one called MEK and the other AKT.

AstraZeneca’s AZD6244 has the potential to treat several tumour types, while Merck’s MK-2206 focuses on treating solid tumours.

Copyright Press Association 2009


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