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Innovative partnership targets cancer-causing ‘chaperones’

by Cancer Research Technology (CRT) | News

7 June 2009

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Cancer Research Technology (CRT) and The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) today announced a major research collaboration with AstraZeneca. The three partners will combine their expertise to discover and develop potential new anti-cancer drugs to target molecular “chaperones” which support the growth of cancer cells.

As part of the deal, AstraZeneca will contribute over £4 million to the three-year project. The ICR will lead the scientific work utilising £1.6 million in funding from Cancer Research UK, who supported the original lab-based discovery on which this work will now build.

Molecular chaperones play an essential ‘escort role’ by ensuring that newly made proteins adopt the correct shape to function correctly and also help normal cells to respond to stress. However, new research suggests that these same chaperones also contribute substantially to the activity of cancer-causing proteins and actually help cancer cells to survive and become more aggressive.

Professor Paul Workman, director of the Cancer Research UK Centre for Cancer Therapeutics at The Institute for Cancer Research, Sutton, said: “We are very pleased to work with AstraZeneca, who bring great expertise in cancer drug discovery and development. By working together in this collaboration, we hope to exploit an ‘Achilles heel’ in the chaperone and stress pathways of cancer cells that will lead to the discovery of new powerful drugs to fight cancer.”

Under the terms of the agreement, AstraZeneca has obtained an exclusive worldwide licence to commercialise the compounds developed during the collaboration. CRT and the ICR will receive up-front payments as well as milestone payments and royalties on any future sales resulting from the work.

Dr Les Hughes, AstraZeneca Vice President, Discovery for the Oncology and Infection Research Area, said: “We are impressed by the potential in these targets and are delighted to be joining forces with this world-renowned research team to progress this work. Drawing on our long history of discovering and developing cancer therapeutics, we aim to convert this early scientific promise into treatments that could make a real impact on the lives of cancer patients.”

Dr Phil L’Huillier, director of business management at CRT, added: “We’re delighted to be involved in this collaboration between the charity sector, industry and academia so that we can help create a comprehensive approach to finding new treatments to help to beat cancer. This deal signifies a shared commitment to ensuring that the understanding gained from Cancer Research UK’s early laboratory-based research work is given the investment necessary to ensure it reaches its full potential. Only time will tell if these potential targets will become workable treatments for cancer patients in the future, but this work shows great promise.”


For media enquiries, please contact the Cancer Research Technology press office on 020 7061 8309 or, out of hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.