Novartis joins Cancer Research UK trial for rare cancers

Published date:
December 13 2022

Following its launch last month, Cancer Research UK’s DETERMINE* trial welcomes onboard Novartis, the second major pharmaceutical partner to join the multi-drug, precision medicine trial for rare cancers.  

The trial, which opened to paediatric and adult patients with any rare cancer type**, was set up by Cancer Research UK’s Centre for Drug Development, the University of Manchester and Roche Products Ltd (‘Roche’).  

Novartis joins Roche in providing access to oncology treatments through the trial, with the Centre for Drug Development sponsoring and managing the trial, and the University of Manchester leading it.  

The DETERMINE trial aims to find out whether existing drugs, including those which are licensed for more common types of cancer, could also benefit patients with rare cancer types that the drug isn’t currently licensed for.  

Patients eligible for the trial will have undergone genetic screening and found that they have one of the particular genetic mutations in their cancer that can be targeted by a drug on the trial.  

Any pharmaceutical or biotechnology company with a targeted oncology agent which has been licensed or is close to being licensed, and who would like the opportunity to evaluate their agent in rare indications not included in their licence, is encouraged to join the trial. Doing so will help open access to even more patients with rare cancers and give them a chance at finding a treatment which could benefit them.  

Its unique design means that any treatment which appears to be working for patients on the trial will be submitted for review by the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF).*** The intention is that the CDF team, working with NHS England Clinical Policy team, will then decide whether a period of data collection in the CDF is appropriate to assess if the drug could be used as a routine treatment option on the NHS for patients with this cancer type.  

The first trial site has opened at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust with other sites to follow, including the University of Glasgow, the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Birmingham, as well as sites across the entire adult and paediatric Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres (ECMC) network****.  

Dr Nigel Blackburn Director of Drug Development at Cancer Research UK’s Centre for Drug Development said: “We are incredibly proud to bring on another renowned multinational pharmaceutical partner so soon after the trial’s launch. With another collaborator on board, we can open up the trial to even more patients with rare cancers who have been traditionally underserved.  

“But this momentum needs to continue in order to benefit as many patients as possible and we implore any companies who think that their drugs could be used on the trial to reach out to us.”  

Dr Gerrit Zijlstra Chief Medical Officer at Novartis UK said:  

“At Novartis we are committed to reimagining medicine, and we are delighted to partner with Cancer Research UK and the University of Manchester to explore further potential of our innovative treatments in changing outcomes for adults, teenagers and children with rare cancers.”  

For more information please visit the DETERMINE trial website.  

Notes to editor

*DETERMINE: Determining Extended Therapeutic indications for Existing drugs in Rare Molecularly-defined Indications using a National Evaluation platform trial. DETERMINE is a Cancer Research UK adaptive umbrella basket platform trial to evaluate the efficacy of targeted therapies in rare adult, paediatric and teenage and young adult (TYA) tumours with actionable genomic alterations, including common cancers with rare actionable alterations.  

** Cancer Research UK:  

***The Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres (ECMC) network is an initiative funded by Cancer Research UK in partnership with the four health departments of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Launched in 2007 with a total investment by the funders of over £100million, this infrastructure award supports a network of 18 adult centres (of excellence) and 11 paediatric locations throughout the UK.  


About Novartis UK  

Novartis is reimagining medicine; our mission is to discover new ways to improve and extend people’s lives. Discovering new treatments requires imagination and visionary thinking combined with determination and rigour. This happens every day at Novartis. We are proud of our contribution to medical progress, but there’s still a long way to go. As a leading global medicines company, we strive to use innovative science and digital technologies to create treatments in areas of great medical need.  

Through the discovery, research and development of innovative treatments and technologies, we aim to tackle devastating diseases and help people in the UK and around the world live longer, better lives.  

Novartis products reach nearly 800 million people globally and we are finding innovative ways to expand access to our latest treatments. About 108,000 people of more than 140 nationalities work at Novartis around the world.  

In the UK, we employ approximately 1,500 people to serve healthcare needs across the whole of the UK, as well as supporting the global operations of Novartis. Since 2014, Novartis has invested over £200 million in R&D and is a leading sponsor of clinical trials, in the UK.  

For more information, please visit 

About Cancer Research UK 


  • Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research, influence and information.  

  • Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.  

  • Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last 40 years.  

  • Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK wants to accelerate progress and see 3 in 4 people surviving their cancer by 2034.  

  • Cancer Research UK supports research into the prevention and treatment of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.  

  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK is working towards a world where people can live longer, better lives, free from the fear of cancer.  

For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.  

About Cancer Research UK’s Centre for Drug Development  

Cancer Research UK has an impressive record of developing novel treatments for cancer. The Cancer Research UK Centre for Drug Development has been pioneering the development of new cancer.

treatments for 25 years, taking over 140 potential new anti-cancer agents into clinical trials in patients. It currently has a portfolio of 21 new anti-cancer agents in preclinical development, Phase I or early Phase II clinical trials. Six of these new agents have made it to market including temozolomide for brain cancer, abiraterone for prostate cancer and rucaparib for ovarian cancer. Two other drugs are in late development Phase III trials.

Learn more: