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New trial of personalised cancer treatment begins in Oxford

The first human trial of a pioneering personalised cancer treatment developed at Oxford University will begin this week, with the potential to tackle a wide range of late-stage cancers.

A major challenge in drug development is that all cancer patients respond differently to treatment, making it difficult to know how best to treat each patient. For the first time, a phase I trial in Oxford will investigate not only a new drug, called CXD101, but also a new test to predict which patients could be successfully treated by this class of drug.

'When patients' cancers do not respond to a treatment, this can cost tens of thousands of pounds and cause patients to suffer side effects for nothing' said lead researcher Professor Nick La Thangue of Oxford University's Department of Oncology. 'Personalised medicine promises to prevent this by predicting how well a patient will respond to a drug before administering it and this is exactly what this trial will do. This is really the shape of things to come, and avoids the problem of testing drugs on patients who have little chance of benefiting from the treatment.'

The test measures levels of a protein called HR23B that could determine the effectiveness of CXD101 and similar drugs. The trial will involve 30-40 cancer patients, the first set of whom will be given increasing doses of CXD101 to determine the most effective dose. The second cohort of patients will then be tested for HR23B, and those with high levels of the protein will be treated with the best dose of CXD101.

CXD101 is a next-generation histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor, a class of drug that kills cancer cells by blocking the vital functions of HDAC enzymes. HDAC enzymes are important for cell multiplication, migration and survival, so blocking them can stop tumours from growing and spreading, and even kill cancer cells entirely.

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