Bayer to invest in childhood cancer trial at the University of Birmingham


Significant funding from Bayer, a global enterprise with core competencies in the life science fields of healthcare and nutrition, is enabling the University of Birmingham’s Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit (CRCTU) to deliver a new study arm of an international clinical trial which aims to identify more effective treatments for a rare type of childhood cancer.

Rhabdomyosarcoma is a soft tissue cancer, which usually forms in skeletal muscle tissue and hollow organs including the bladder and uterus. Despite survival rates for the first occurrence of disease increasing from 25% in 1970 to more than 70% today, around a third of patients will relapse at least once which further increases their risk of dying, as treatment options after relapse are currently limited and innovative new drugs for this disease have been lacking.

The funding will support evaluation of regorafenib, an oral cancer therapy from Bayer, in relapsed rhabdomyosarcoma patients, aiming to determine whether this drug combined with standard treatment can improve survival rates, reduce the chance of relapse and improve long-term quality of life for patients.

The product from Bayer is already approved as a monotherapy across certain forms of colorectal cancer, gastrointestinal stromal tumours, and hepatocellular carcinoma, and will now be investigated in this rare paediatric indication.

The study will also explore biomarkers to evaluate whether they can be used to predict relapse and improve prognosis. The new study arm is one part of the international multi-arm, multi-stage Frontline and Relapse RhabdoMyosarcoma (FaR-RMS) clinical trial, which is already underway at the University of Birmingham, funded by Cancer Research UK.

Dr Scott Z. Fields, Head of Oncology Development at Bayer, commented: “Bayer is committed to developing new cancer treatments for which there is a great medical need, such as for paediatric cancer patients.

“We are pleased to be a partner on this important study supported by academic experts at the University of Birmingham and the European Paediatric Soft-Tissue Sarcoma Group, and are looking forward to the next steps of this trial and the benefits it could bring in the future for patients.”

Professor Pamela Kearns, Director of the University of Birmingham’s CRCTU, explained: “This new partnership with Bayer highlights our world-leading strengths in paediatric cancers and the excellence of our industry trials work at the University of Birmingham, and further evidences our strengthening capabilities with the forthcoming Birmingham Health Innovation Campus and its Birmingham Precision Medicine Centre (BPMC) Industry Trials Hub.

“Our internationally-leading expertise in complex clinical trial delivery will inform this trial throughout as we seek to validate more effective treatments to enable children with rhabdomyosarcoma to return to remission and lead longer, healthier lives.”