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Bayer and Broad Institute Dive into Cancer Treatment Options

By Mia Burns (

Bayer HealthCare executives have announced a strategic alliance with the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass. for oncogenomics and drug discovery. The collaboration goal is to jointly discover and develop therapeutic agents that selectively target cancer genome alterations during a five-year period. Associate Web Editor Mia Burns interviewed Dr. Karl Ziegelbauer, head of therapeutic research group oncology and gynecological therapies at Bayer HealthCare.

Q: As you know, there is a shortage of oncology drugs. Are you looking to address the drug shortage with this collaboration?

A: With the goal of improving the lives of people affected by cancer, oncology research at Bayer is working on developing new cancer treatments and making them available to patients who need them all over the world. Our pipeline explores specific treatment approaches in various stages of preclinical and clinical development for various tumors, including such common types of cancer as prostate, lung and breast cancer, as well as rarer forms like kidney, liver and thyroid cancer. The oncology franchise at Bayer now includes three marketed oncology products. Together, these products reflect the company’s approach to research, which prioritizes targets and pathways with the potential to impact the way that cancer is treated. Bayer is working together with a number of external partners, especially in the area of oncology and has established a global network. The alliance with the Broad Institute is another significant step underlining our engagement in the field of oncology and personalized medicine.

Q: Will this be the first time that Bayer has worked with cancer genome alterations?

A: A key starting point in oncology research at Bayer is identifying suitable molecular targets at different stages of tumor evolution with the aim of killing tumor cells and stopping tumor growth. Novel therapeutic strategies can then be derived from such targets. For example, kinase inhibitors are a class of active ingredients that has emerged from this research. Bayer's target-discovery efforts focus particularly on the cell cycle, survival signaling, immunotherapy, antibody-drug conjugates, tumor metabolism and chromatin modulation. Tumor cell alterations including cancer genome alterations are part of the research approaches.

Q: What else can you share about Bayer’s engagement in oncology and personalized medicine?

A: It is known that today’s response rate for many medicines ranges from 20 to 75 percent, depending on the indication. We believe that being able to identify responders or non-responders will mean a more efficient use of resources and better treatment for patients.
It is our goal at Bayer HealthCare to develop a biomarker strategy for every compound going into clinical studies and to fully leverage the opportunities of personalized medicine for the benefit of our patients, wherever the scientific rationale is given. We have started with our oncology projects, other therapeutic areas will follow.

That means that all our oncology projects have been and will be evaluated with regard to their potential for a patient stratification approach. We use either established or explore new stratification markers. With the help of in vitro diagnostics, we aim at a predictive patient stratification.
Driven by specific project needs and in line with our personalized medicine strategy, we seek partners who help us to ensure access to state-of-the-art diagnostic expertise. In addition to their technical strength, we look for proven capability to obtain approval for and to ensure access to the test, world-wide. We believe that our flexible partnering strategy will help us to be successful in delivering personalized treatments and we are already working with experts in this area like for example Ventana and QIAGEN.
Q: Can you specify which types of oncology this agreement will address?

A: The goal of this collaboration is to jointly discover and develop therapeutic agents that selectively target cancer genome alterations which means it is less tissue specific, less tumor type specific in the beginning but rather looking for common cancer mutations which can be linked to different types of tumors.  The Broad Institute’s scientists have created impressive systematic catalogues of mutational changes across different types of tumors. And targeting individual patient tumor mutations will allow for the development of more personalized cancer treatments.

Q: As both Bayer and Broad explore their compound libraries for this collaboration, about how many compounds does each party possess?

A: Both parties will explore their compound libraries, and use their screening platforms as well as medicinal chemistry expertise to benefit joint projects. Broad scientists have developed a unique compound library based on diversity-oriented synthesis comprising approximately 100,000 compounds. At Bayer a high-quality screening compound collection with more than 3 million compounds is established.

Q: What makes this collaboration visionary?

A: Combining the technologies of both partners will generate synergy at all levels of the preclinical drug-development value chain. In addition, this collaboration will provide innovative technologies and tool compounds to the academic community and by sharing this knowledge broadly; it will help the entire oncology research community to understand the biology of certain cancer targets. Furthermore, the Broad-Bayer HealthCare collaboration is based on joint decision making by joint teams with complementary expertise. A successful joint collaboration will bring both - Bayer and Broad cancer research - to the next level and has the potential to establish a collaboration role model for public and industry relationships to develop novel therapy options for cancer patients.

Posted: September 2013