Cambridge firm Astex's joy at breast cancer treatment approval

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17/03/2017

Astex Pharmaceuticals is celebrating after a breast cancer treatment it worked on was granted approval in the US.

The Food and Drug Authority in the US has given the green light to Kisqali, a therapy marketed by another firm, Novartis, to treat post-menopausal women with breast cancer.

Astex, which is based on the Science Park, was responsible for solving the crystal structure of the key cancer target protein CDK4.

This was an important scientific breakthrough that no other group had previously been able to achieve, and the company’s scientists subsequently worked alongside the team at Novartis in a collaboration that led to the discovery of LEE011, now known as Kisqali, using the Astex Pyramid drug discovery system.

Harren Jhoti, president and CEO of Astex, said: “We’re committed to the fight against cancer and so we are absolutely delighted that Novartis has received this first approval of a cancer drug arising from our productive collaboration.

“This milestone further validates the power of our Pyramid platform and the excellence of our science. It’s a moment to celebrate when such ground-breaking scientific work results in a new treatment option for women with advanced breast cancer.”

As a result of the deal, as well as additional regulatory filings in Europe and Japan, Astex is due to receive a milestone payment from Novartis.

The company, which was founded in Cambridge in 1999 and pioneered the development of fragment-based drug discovery, is also in line to received royalty payments on annual sales of Kisqali, under the drug discovery alliance entered into between Astex and Novartis in 2005.


This partnership was struck to discover cell cycle inhibitors which represented a novel class of compounds that target the mechanisms of cell division in order to prevent or interfere with cancer growth.

“Kisqali is emblematic of the innovation that Novartis continues to bring forward for people with metastatic breast cancer,” said Bruno Strigini, CEO, Novartis Oncology.

“We at Novartis are proud of the comprehensive clinical program for Kisqali that has led to today’s approval and the new hope this medicine represents for patients and their families.”

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