AstraZeneca and Cancer Research Technology are putting their heads together under a major three-year pact designed to generate “a stream” of new therapies targeting cancer metabolism.

Around 30 scientists from the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker and the commercial arm of leading charity Cancer Research UK will combine brain power and laboratory resources to accelerate the creation of promising new compounds that interfere with cancer metabolism by depriving the affected cells of nutrients essential for growth and survival.

Cancer cells and normal cells use energy differently to fuel growth, and the groups are hoping that specifically targeting the metabolism of cancer cells will give rise to a new generation of drugs that attack this potential “Achilles heel” of the tumour whilst leaving healthy tissues unharmed.

Under the terms of the deal, AZ will take the most promising projects - initially selected from CR UK’s portfolio of promising biological research in the field - under its wing for pre-clinical assessment and clinical drug development.

While specific financial details were not disclosed, the companies said the alliance is based on an innovative model for sharing the risks and potential rewards in developing new anti-cancer treatments. However, it was confirmed that CRT stands to receive milestone payments and royalties on the projects that AZ takes into clinical testing.

Commenting on the partnership’s potential, Dr Keith Blundy, CRT’s chief executive, said: “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 the deal “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”, and Harpal Kumar, CR UK’s chief executive, said he hoped the alliance “will result in a number of new weapons in our fight to beat cancer”.