Cancer Research UK to work with Astellas to find new cancer treatments

Initially focusing on drug targets to block the autophagy pathway in pancreatic cancer cells

Cancer Research UK and its commercial arm, Cancer Research Technology (CRT), are collaborating with Japanese pharmaceutical company Astellas Pharma to find new cancer drugs, with an initial focus on pancreatic cancer.

As part of a new collaboration, the three organisations will conduct a two-year research programme in the UK to find promising new drug targets for pancreatic cancer.

Certain pancreatic cancers are dependent on autophagy, the process of consuming your own cellular parts for energy, in order to grow. Blocking this pathway may help stop some pancreatic cancers.

Under the terms of the deal, the first stage aims to identify and then validate the best possible drug targets to block the autophagy pathway in pancreatic cancer cells.

'In establishing this significant collaboration, the first of its kind between CRT and a Japanese pharmaceutical company, we’re bringing together Cancer Research UK’s world-leading target validation expertise and Astellas’ proven track record on drug development, which we hope will lead to new drugs for pancreatic cancer patients,' said Keith Blundy, CEO of Cancer Research Technology.

We’re bringing together Cancer Research UK’s world-leading target validation expertise and Astellas’ proven track record on drug development

Professor Kevin Ryan at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute and Dr Sharon Tooze at the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute will carry out the research.

Astellas gains an exclusive licence to progress the most promising candidates through further drug discovery and development, subject to making milestone and royalty payments to CRT.

No financial details have been released.

'This is an exciting opportunity to develop new drugs for pancreatic cancer where there is an urgent need for new treatments,' said Ryan.

'Research suggests that pancreatic cancer can be dependent on autophagy, making it an excellent pathway to target for drug discovery.'

Every year 8,800 people are diagnosed with pancreatic in the UK but survival rates remain very low, with only 3% of people diagnosed surviving the disease for five years or more after their diagnosis.

Companies