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CRT and AstraZeneca form major alliance to create cancer metabolism drugs

by Cancer Research Technology (CRT) | News

7 February 2010

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Cancer Research UK’s commercialisation and development arm, Cancer Research Technology (CRT), today announced it has teamed up with biopharmaceutical business, AstraZeneca in a major, multi-project alliance, in which around 30 scientists will be focused on creating a stream of new anti-cancer drugs, it is announced today (Sunday).

The three-year alliance will work on a portfolio of projects carefully selected by CRT from Cancer Research UK’s portfolio of biological research in the emerging field of cancer metabolism.

Cancer metabolism research seeks to explain why cancer cells use energy differently to normal cells in order to survive and grow, particularly under the conditions of nutrient and hypoxic stress faced by rapidly growing tumours. New drugs that control a cell’s metabolism could attack an “Achilles heel” of the tumour whilst sparing normal tissues.

The alliance team will work at CRT’s Discovery Laboratories in London and Cambridge, and AstraZeneca’s cancer research centre near Manchester. They will seek to develop small molecules which attempt to target the changes to a cell’s metabolism – attempting to deprive cancer cells of the nutrients they need to grow and survive.

AstraZeneca will take the most promising projects forward into pre-clinical and clinical drug development – through an innovative model for sharing the risks and potential rewards in creating new anti-cancer treatments. CRT will receive milestone payments and royalties on the projects that AstraZeneca take into clinical development.

Dr Keith Blundy, chief executive of CRT said: “We’re thrilled to be entering this alliance with AstraZeneca which has extensive capability in the late drug discovery and development stages and a long history in oncology. It’s a major milestone in the development of CRT’s Discovery Laboratories which have been created to advance early stage cancer discoveries to a point where they are attractive to commercial collaborators.”

“Increasing evidence shows that cancer metabolism is an exciting area of research. It’s now clear that cells produce and use oxygen and energy very differently to normal cells, which presents us with an opportunity to find new ways to control these processes. We’re confident that the scale and breadth of this project – which should see us progressing around five projects at any one time – will yield many exciting results in the years to come.”

Dr Les Hughes, Global Vice President of Cancer Research at AstraZeneca, said: “This deal with CRT will enable us to speed up research in this exciting area by pairing AstraZeneca’s drug discovery and development capabilities with CRT’s expertise in indentifying and progressing new targets selected from Cancer Research UK’s basic research portfolio. We look forward to this collaboration adding a new dimension to our hunt for new and innovative cancer treatments.”

Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “This important and innovative deal between CRT and AstraZeneca is great news for Cancer Research UK, and for cancer patients. The next generation of cancer treatments will be targeted to specific biological mechanisms that are fundamentally different between cancer and normal cells. 

“Cancer metabolism is one such area and this alliance recognises the global excellence of Cancer Research UK’s expertise in uncovering these important mechanisms. It’s going to vastly improve and expand our knowledge, enabling a team of talented scientists to come together to find new drugs.

“Investing in partnership with pharmaceutical companies in the discovery and development of new cancer drugs will help us to accelerate progress towards our goal of finding new treatments for cancer patients. We hope this alliance will result in a number of new weapons in our fight to beat cancer.”


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.