Cancer Research UK and the Cancer Research Technology Pioneer Fund (CPF) National Cancer Institute (NCI), US, have partnered to develop and test promising new molecules that target renin-angiotensin system (RAS).

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The Ras proteins are characterised as essential components of signalling networks controlling cellular proliferation, differentiation, or survival.

At the cell membrane, the RAS protein acts as a switch to send signals that tell the cell to grow and divide. Faulty versions of this protein cannot be switched off and cause too many of these signals to be produced, leading to cancer.

It is one of the most common and aggressive mutations present in hard-to-treat cancers such as pancreatic and lung cancer.

With an investment of £2.5m, scientists at the NCI in Frederick at Maryland will work with the Drug Discovery Unit at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow, Scotland, and develop gold standard tests that will evaluate novel RAS inhibitors.

Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute drug discovery unit head Dr Martin Drysdale said: “Our team is determined to challenge the dogma that RAS is ‘undruggable.’

“This collaboration is our biggest yet and will double our resource targeting RAS. We are excited to be joining forces with the NCI in their pioneering RAS Initiative.

"This collaboration is our biggest yet and will double our resource targeting RAS. We are excited to be joining forces with the NCI in their pioneering RAS Initiative."

“Instead of scientists working and thinking in isolation, the NCI has created a research hub to pull together all the best science and expertise.

“My team is looking forward to contributing and working with Dr Frank McCormick, who leads the RAS Initiative and who has been at the forefront of cancer science for many years.”

This new collaboration augments the NCI’s RAS Initiative, which was introduced in 2013. This initiative gathers scientists worldwide to research and develop medications for this faulty protein.

The Sixth Element Capital managed CRT Pioneer Fund will be responsible for commercial exploitation of the compounds that are developed through this collaboration.

Image: New collaboration seeks to develop gold standard tests to analyse these novel RAS inhibitors. Photo: courtesy of Cancer Research UK.