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New breast cancer initiative brings together pharma and Europe’s top researchers

Published on 09/02/16 at 12:30pm
Cancer cells from the Breast Cancer Now Tissue Bank cell programme

The UK charity Breast Cancer Now (BCN) has announced a new initiative seeking to bring together Europe’s top researchers and leading global pharmaceutical companies with the aim of eradicating deaths from the disease by 2050.

The Breast Cancer Now Catalyst Programme will fund research that the partners hope will lead the way in advancing treatment options for the one in eight women who will face breast cancer in their lifetime.

BCN called for action, noting that the UK currently has one of the lowest breast cancer survival rates in Western Europe, and that some 12,000 of the 50,000 women to be diagnosed this year alone will lose their lives to the disease.

Pfizer has become the first collaborator to sign up to the programme, and the US-based company, now the world’s largest by market value since its merger with Allergan, has committed to giving academic researchers unprecedented access to certain drugs in its oncology pipeline- opening up some of its existing and experimental assets to independent research. 

Breast Cancer Now says such access will help speed the development of new treatments by allowing the top academics to explore how the Pfizer assets might interact with other drugs already on the market.

To enable this research, Pfizer has also committed $15 million (about £10 million), for Breast Cancer Now to use in awarding grants to the best proposals from independent researchers in Europe and the UK it receives over the next three years. A new committee of scientific experts will recommend proposals for grants based on scientific merit, starting later this year, BCN says.

Although Pfizer is the first pharma company to sign up, Breast Cancer Now says discussions are ongoing with a number of additional pharmaceutical companies with a view to them joining the Programme later this year.

Commenting on the new initiative, Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, says: “In the last 20 years we’ve made great progress in treating breast cancer, but progress has slowed, and 12,000 deaths a year in the UK from this disease is still too many. We strongly believe that the fight against breast cancer can only be won by everyone joining their efforts.

“Today’s launch of The Breast Cancer Now Catalyst Programme marks this new era of collaboration and fresh thinking, focused on excellence and new discoveries. By combining our expertise, knowledge and resources we want better, stronger medicines and treatments to reach those women and men suffering from breast cancer quicker.”

George Freeman MP, UK Minister for Life Sciences, adds: “The Breast Cancer Now Catalyst Programme places NHS patients at the heart of 21st Century research collaboration and promises to bring innovative new treatments to patients as fast as possible.

“The landscape of drug development and discovery is changing, and this incredibly exciting new initiative demonstrates exactly how the pharmaceutical industry, charities and researchers can work together to achieve life-changing breakthroughs.”

Maria Koehler, vice president of Strategy, Innovation and Collaborations for Pfizer Oncology, comments: “As a science company and a leader in breast cancer research, Pfizer Oncology’s aim is to develop medicines that control and cure people’s cancer. We believe that great science comes through collaboration; together, through supporting initiatives such as this, we can achieve more and move faster, improving the outlook for breast cancer patients in the UK and around the world.”

Joel Levy

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