UK biotech Azeria pioneers research into cancer target FOXA1

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A new UK biotech, Azeria Therapeutics has started on a mission to develop breakthrough treatments for drug-resistant breast and prostate cancer, based around a new target known as FOXA1.

Azeria has been set up to develop breakthrough treatments for hormone-resistant disease and focuses on FOXA1, which has been proven to play a part in the way tumours form in the breast and prostate gland.

Dr Jason Carroll, founder and chief scientific officer, Azeria Therapeutics, said: “Oestrogen receptors are the driving and defining transcription factor in 75% of breast cancers. Our research has shown for the first time that DNA interactions and transcriptional potential of [oestrogen receptors] depend on the pioneer factor FOXA1, which plays an essential role in determining tumour growth and progression even when resistance to existing drugs has developed.

“Through the application of our unique insights into pioneer factors, we aim to identify inhibitors against this novel class of drug targets in cancer, which until now have been considered un-druggable.”

The news was welcomed by Dr Iain Foulkes, Cancer Research UK’s executive director of research and innovation, who said the organisation was committed to helping to translate the groundbreaking discoveries arising from its research base into urgently needed new treatments for those with cancer.

“Researchers are only just beginning to understand the mechanisms that underpin drug resistance in cancer and it’s exciting to see pioneering research by Cancer Research UK scientists being used to develop treatments to help tackle this widespread problem,” said Dr Foulkes.

Azeria Therapeutics was created by Sixth Element Capital and Cancer Research UK’s commercial partnerships team. The drug discovery company recently announced that it has successfully raised £4 million from the £70 million CRT Pioneer Fund, managed by UK-based fund manager Sixth Element Capital.

This investment will be used to build on the discoveries made by Azeria’s founder Dr Jason Carroll, a world-leading expert in pioneer factors in cancer who is based at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute at the University of Cambridge.