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Shutting off the energy supply to cancer – targeting tumour metabolism

by Kat Arney | Analysis

22 July 2010

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Cancer cells dividing

Cancer cells have a high demand for energy, which could be turned against them

Cancer cells aren’t like healthy cells. They grow and multiply out of control and, in doing so, use up large amounts of energy.  To meet this energy demand, cancer cells dramatically alter their internal metabolism – the biological processes that control the production of energy within cells.

Because of this, many researchers around the world are studying energy production (metabolism) in cancer cells, in order to understand how it differs from metabolism in healthy cells. Exploiting these differences could lead to powerful future treatments for the disease.

This theme is explored in a recent feature in the journal Nature Reviews Drug Discovery.  The article discusses a collaboration between Cancer Research UK’s wholly-owned technology development company, Cancer Research Technology (CRT), and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to develop new drugs that specifically target tumour metabolism.

The whole article is available from the journal’s website (currently free to access if you register), but here’s a few quotes about the new partnership.

“It’s a unique academic–industry partnership,” says Stephen Green, who leads the alliance with CRT on behalf of AstraZeneca. “We are trying to get access to novel science that could lead to the next wave of cancer therapies and, by partnering with the pharmaceutical industry, CRT is better placed to translate Cancer Research UK research into novel drugs.”

To do this, our world-class cancer metabolism researchers are working together with experts at AstraZeneca. To get the ball rolling, earlier this year our scientists took part in a workshop with a team from the company, discussing possible targets for new cancer drugs.

“We’ve already started some drug development around a couple of those targets,” says Green. “We will work together to try to identify novel chemical starting points, understand how the compounds modulate the actions of some of those targets, and importantly identify which patients might benefit most from a novel drug,” he adds.

You can read more (in somewhat technical language) on the Nature Reviews Drug Discovery website.