A German drugmaker and one of the largest cancer treatment and research centers in the U.S. have a new partnership to develop new therapies in oncology, including gastrointestinal and lung cancers.

Ingelheim, Germany-based Boehringer Ingelheim and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston said they had started a research collaboration, calling it a “virtual research and development center.” A spokesperson for MD Anderson explained in an email that this means investigators from both organizations will work closely together, but there will not be a physical location specifically tied to it.

The partnership will allow projects to enter at different stages – research and development as well as clinical development – over the course of several years. It will include Boehringer’s drug pipeline as well as MD Anderson’s Therapeutics Discovery division. The latter of those comprises clinicians and researchers involved in drug discovery and development.

“Together, we hope to transform the treatment landscape for these diseases by tackling their root causes and drivers that have so far remained elusive, exploring new and smart ways of killing cancer cells,” the company’s global head of oncology, Victoria Zazulina, said in a statement. “Our innovative oncology pipeline, coupled with strong partnerships like this, will contribute to unravelling the complexities of these diseases and bringing innovative solutions to people with various types of cancers.”

Areas of focus include research on the inhibition of KRAS, a protein widely expressed in cancers, but long regarded as “undruggable” due to its general absence of binding pockets. Amgen is currently testing AMG 510, an inhibitor of KRAS G12C, in solid tumors, while several startups have been exploring KRAS inhibitors as well. Another drug the Boehringer-MD Anderson partnership will explore is an antibody that targets a protein called TRAILR2.

Gastrointestinal and lung cancers are particularly common among solid tumors. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 4.1 million people due from them worldwide every year. Lung cancers include two main types – small-cell and non-small cell – while gastrointestinal cancers include those affecting the esophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas and intestines.

Photo: CGToolbox, Getty Images



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