Three-way collaboration to research “undruggable” RAS

Published: 19-Apr-2017

The CRT Pioneer Fund, Cancer Research UK and NCI collaborate will collaborate via labs in Maryland and Scotland

Cancer Research UK and the Cancer Research Technology Pioneer Fund (CPF) have committed £2.5m in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), US, to tackle one of the most difficult challenges in cancer that has thwarted researchers for more than 30 years.

Scientists will develop and test promising new molecules for targeting RAS, one of the most common driving mutations in aggressive, hard to treat cancers including pancreatic and lung cancer.

Development of tests for analysing novel RAS inhibitors will take place at the Drug Discovery Unit at Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute, Scotland, alongside scientists from NCI in Maryland, USA.


For decades, scientists have been attempting to target RAS, but with little success. This is because RAS lacks an obvious site on its surface for potential drug molecules to fit into and inhibit its signalling.

Martin Drysdale, head of the Drug Discovery Unit at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute, said: “Our team is determined to challenge the dogma that RAS is ‘undruggable.’ This collaboration is our biggest yet and will double our resource targeting RAS.”

“Instead of scientists working and thinking in isolation, the NCI has created a research hub to pull together all the best science and expertise.”

Our team is determined to challenge the dogma that RAS is ‘undruggable.’

Frank McCormick directs the research efforts of the RAS Initiative at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research. He said:

“We’re making progress in our understanding of how RAS proteins function at the molecular level and how they form signalling complexes in membranes.”

“New technologies and tools mean we can now analyse these proteins in ways that were not possible a few years ago, and can now test new ways of blocking RAS function.”

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