DUBLIN, Calif., Jan. 16, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Astex Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Nasdaq:ASTX), a pharmaceutical company dedicated to the discovery and development of novel small molecule therapeutics, today announced that collaborators Cancer Research UK and its commercial arm Cancer Research Technology (CRT) are launching a trial of an experimental drug shown to simultaneously block many enzymes that control cancer cell growth and death. The 'master-switch' experimental drug, owned by Astex Pharmaceuticals, is being studied in a range of cancer types. Cancer Research UK's Drug Development Office (DDO) will fund, manage and sponsor this early-stage Phase I clinical trial of up to 40 patients at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden Hospital. The drug, AT13148, is one of eight drugs to be developed through Cancer Research UK's Clinical Development Partnerships program, which is a joint initiative between the charity's DDO and CRT. The program develops promising cancer drugs that pharmaceutical companies do not have the resources to progress through early phase clinical trials to see if they can benefit cancer patients. Without this program many promising drugs would be left on the shelves gathering dust. AT13148 is a multi-AGC kinase inhibitor that inhibits several enzymes in the PI3K - AKT tumor cell survival pathway including protein kinase B (PKB/AKT) and p70S6K. AT13148 shows a distinct mechanism of action from other AKT inhibitors. Pre-clinical research was published recently (Clin. Cancer Res.; 2012,18(14); 3912-3923). The molecule was originally discovered by scientists on the PKB drug discovery program, a collaboration between Astex Pharmaceuticals, CRT and The Institute of Cancer Research, which ran from 2003 through 2006. Harren Jhoti, PhD, Astex Pharmaceuticals president and director said, "We are very gratified with the progress that the collaboration has achieved and that this work has progressed into the clinic." Astex Pharmaceuticals can decide to develop the drug further based on the Phase I/IIa clinical trial data. If it chooses not to, Cancer Research Technology has the rights to secure an alternative partner and ensure the drug has every possible chance of reaching patients.