Hazel Jones, Cancer Research UK’s Head of Combination Therapies, talks to us about the latest collaborations and opportunities to get involved and explore the use of new therapies in combination strategies.

Combination strategies must be investigated earlier in the drug development pipeline to maximise treatment opportunities for people with cancer. Even with their significant resources, drug companies can only explore a fraction of all possible combinations.

Launched in 2010, the Combinations Alliance is supported and governed by Cancer Research UK’s (CRUK) Centre for Drug Development (CDD) and offers a collaborative model. For academic researchers, this offers the opportunity to increase the number of novel combination treatment options and for industry, this provides the opportunity to broaden potential markets for their novel drugs. The Combinations Alliance is also driving cross-company collaborations, to establish a position as broker, hence progressing the most promising combinations.

Current collaborations

The Combinations Alliance now has nine industry partners including recent collaborations with Biothera, Plexxikon, Clovis, Verastem and Immudulon and the longstanding commercial partnerships with AstraZeneca, MedImmune, Lilly and Astex. The partners offer one or more novel drugs for academics to explore different combinations of therapies, including radiotherapy, in early phase clinical trials. Active discussions are ongoing with several other companies and researchers are encouraged to complete our ‘Drugs of Interest’ survey on our website.

» Drugs of interest survey (external webpage)

With a growing and transitioning portfolio, success has now been demonstrated both with delivery of trials and the opportunities they can offer, such as expansion into wider disease areas shown by TAX-TORC demonstrating efficacy in ovarian and squamous cell lung cancer. Furthermore, novel intra-patient dose escalation in CompAKT and delivering the first trial in neuroendocrine tumours in VIBRANT, shows the varied nature of our work.

Opportunities to get involved

There are ongoing opportunities to get involved and maximise the effective use of new therapies in combination with other novel agents, immunotherapy or conventional chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

In order for a novel combination to progress to an early phase clinical trial, preclinical evidence is required to support the idea. CRUK’s preclinical combination scheme can provide the funding to support these types of combination study. Furthermore, the Radiotherapy-drug combinations consortium (RaDCom), established by NCRI’s Clinical and Translational Radiotherapy research working group (CTRad) and CRUK, can help investigators develop ideas and deliver supporting preclinical evidence for novel radiotherapy-drug combinations.

» Funding for preclinical studies of new drug combinations (CRUK webpage)

Calls for novel clinical combination ideas are made to the ECMC network and planned three times per year. The next call is planned for early December. In advance of the call we are holding a workshop on  Wednesday 4 November at this year’s NCRI Cancer Conference in Liverpool.

» Workshop at the NCRI Cancer Conference (internal webpage)

Further information

» Combinations Alliance webpage

» Email the Combinations Alliance