Targeting ‘triple negative’
March 2014
by Ilene Schneider  |  Email the author

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PARIS—Curie-Cancer, the body that leads the Institut Curie's industry partner research activity, and Servier, an independent French pharmaceutical research company, have renewed their partnership to identify therapeutic targets for treating triple-negative breast cancers. The partnership, which began in 2005, will continue for three more years, and the partners will share any intellectual property resulting from their work.
 
Accounting for about 15 percent of breast cancer cases, triple-negative breast cancers are especially aggressive and unresponsive to current chemotherapy regimens. Because triple-negative breast cancers do not express estrogen or progesterone receptors that would enable treatment with hormone therapy or Her-2 receptors that would enable treatment with targeted therapies that bind to Her-2 receptors, new treatment methods are needed. Clinicians and researchers have intense interest in finding new medications that can treat this kind of breast cancer. Early studies are attempting to determine whether certain medications can interfere with the processes that cause triple-negative breast cancer to grow.
 
The Institut Curie and Servier have created an alliance to identify potential therapeutic targets specific to triple-negative breast cancers, using the Institut Curie's extensive collection of breast cancer samples. The goal of the initial partnership was to identify molecules that act on these targets, in order to develop medicinal products to improve treatment for patients who fail to respond to the current therapies available.
 
Highly specialized biologists, biochemists, geneticists and bioinformaticians from both organizations have discovered many promising leads, identifying a therapeutic target, kinase TTK/MPS1, an enzyme involved in cell cycle regulation. A medicinal product that acts on this target is already in preclinical development. Emmanuel Canet, president of research and development at Servier, believes these results reflect a complementary knowledge base between the two organizations that could not have been achieved by either partner alone.
 
“Servier's research strategy includes developing research partnerships with the leading academic teams. Our long-term partnership with the Institut Curie symbolizes our ability to work effectively and cohesively with the best teams in the world,” according to Canet. “Our decision to extend the partnership with the Institut Curie for a further three years was inspired by these highly encouraging results, the need to look at the other results obtained in more depth and the desire to explore other potential leads.”
 
Other triple-negative breast cancer drugs in development are Abbvie's veliparib, which is in Phase 2 development, and Merck's highly promising MK-3475, which has shown potential in a number of indications. Some companies have struggled in the area, however, including Sanofi, which saw its investigational drug iniparib fail to meet trial targets in 2011.
 
According to Pascal Touchon, Servier's director of scientific collaboration, “The key driver for Servier has always been research. The company allocates over 25 percent of its earnings to this activity, making it one of the leading international pharmaceutical laboratories. The Institut Curie partnership fulfills our primary mission of discovering particularly innovative medicinal products that address an unmet medical need and making them available to patients.”
 
Sergio Roman-Roman, director of translational research at the Institut Curie, added, “The efforts coordinated by Thierry Dubois have involved many doctors and researchers with various specialties, including our own team of bioinformatics experts. This partnership is underpinned by a highly constructive approach, especially with regard to the quality of interaction between our teams.”
 
“The Institut Curie is certainly pleased with the terms of this long- term partnership, where there is a genuine division of labor,” according to Damien Salauze, director of Curie-Cancer. “The intellectual property is also evenly split, meaning that if the work in hand results in an innovative medicinal product, the Institut Curie will receive royalties that it can reinvest in new research. The opportunity to help a local manufacturer to expand operations in its area of expertise is an additional source of satisfaction for the Institut Curie.”
 
Marie Curie, the Nobel Laureate who founded Institut Curie in 1909, appreciated the continuum between fundamental research, clinical research and patient care, Salauze says. Curie-Cancer established teams to engage in research from cognitive to translational to clinical. Today Curie-Cancer offers industrial partners collaborative research projects with highly advanced technical platforms.
 
Founded in 1954, Servier is an independent French pharmaceutical research company that pursues innovation in therapy for cardiovascular, metabolic, neurologic, psychiatric, bone and joint diseases as well as cancer. More than 90 percent of its drugs are used internationally.
Code: E031405

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