Challenge Fund invests in fight against cancer


Sentinel Oncology has received a financial boost from the Challenge Fund Trading Company, part of Cambridge Enterprise Seed Funds (CESF).

Sentinel, together with Professor Ashok Venkitaraman from the University of Cambridge, is researching new drugs for difficult to treat cancers. Hypoxia - or low oxygen - is a common feature of many cancers, and is associated with resistance to 'traditional' treatments such as radiation.

The team at Sentinel Oncology are investigating novel drugs that exploit this feature by becoming 'activated' to kill cancer cells only within the hypoxic zones found in common cancers. Sentinel has been developing a portfolio of drugs that may be successful in combating these cancers, through selective activation, that will leave healthy cells unaffected.

Working with Sentinel is Professor Venkitaraman from the University Department of Oncology and the Medical Research Council's Cancer Cell Unit, whose expertise in cancer cell biology has been crucial in helping to select potentially successful drugs and new biological targets.

The 100,000 investment will enable Sentinel to identify pre-clinical candidate drugs and move forward into the in vivo test phase.

Sentinel founder, Bob Boyle, said, 'The support from the Challenge Fund will enable us to move quickly, with our first pre-clinical tests later this year and clinical trials in 2007. This will help build confidence with our future pharmaceutical partners, get products to market more rapidly and so offer a wider range of treatment options to those suffering from cancer. We anticipate the first cancers to be targeted will be those of the head & neck, lungs and breast.'

Professor Venkitaraman said, 'My work looks at why some cancer cells respond to treatments and others don't. There's a natural synergy with Sentinel and by working together we hope to produce newer, more selective regimes to treat cancers, as well as more efficient ways to get drugs through pre-clinical development and into clinical trials.'

Dr Geraldine Rodgers from CESF commented, 'The collaboration between Sentinel and Professor Venkitaraman is working towards filling an important gap in the cancer market: our funding will bring that a step closer. Current treatments are not suitable for all, but Sentinel's business planning and vision, together with the expertise of Professor Venkitaraman, will bring greater choices in the fight against cancer.'

Sentinel Oncology was founded in 2005 by medicinal chemists Bob Boyle and Stuart Travers, together with businessman Gavin Simpson. The aim of the firm is to build a therapeutics company focused around the discovery and development of novel drug molecules for the treatment of solid tumours in humans. Sentinel Oncology received a 74,000 R&D grant from the East of England Development Agency in 2005.


Further information:

Geraldine Rodgers, CESF 01223 763719

Bob Boyle, Sentinel Oncology 07970 784202

To read more information, click here.

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