Ardea San Diego-based Ardea Biosciences is pocketing a $35 million upfront payment and stands to earn another $372 million in milestones from a cancer drug development pact that it struck with Bayer HealthCare.

The pact revolves around the development of MEK inhibitors to treat solid tumors. The kinases may be able to prevent metastasis and trigger apoptosis, or cell death.

"We are very excited about the potential use of MEK inhibitors to treat a broad range of cancer indications," stated Kemal Malik, head of global development at Bayer. "We are looking forward to working with Ardea's team on the development of novel cancer treatments for patients."

The lead compound in this program, RDEA119, is being evaluated in advanced cancer patients of different tumor types as a single agent in a Phase I study as well as in combination with sorafenib (Nexavar) in a Phase I/II study.

"RDEA119 has demonstrated compelling synergistic activity in vitro in combination with sorafenib, as well as other approved anti-cancer agents, and we look forward to working with Bayer as a globally successful company in the field of targeted anti-cancer therapies to evaluate multiple drug combinations in several cancer indications," commented Barry D. Quart, Ardea's president and chief executive officer.