AstraZeneca is teaming up with Cancer Research UK in a deal that will focus on “the emerging field of cancer metabolism”.

The pact between the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker and the charity’s commercialisation and development arm, Cancer Research Technology is “a major, multi-project alliance in which around 30 scientists will be focused on creating a stream of new anti-cancer drugs”, CRUK says. The three-year alliance will involve cancer metabolism research which seeks to explain why cancer cells use energy differently to normal cells in order to survive and grow.

New drugs that control a cell’s metabolism could attack an ‘Achilles heel’ of a tumour whilst sparing normal tissues, the charity notes. AstraZeneca will take the most promising projects forward into pre-clinical and clinical development through what is described as “an innovative model for sharing the risks and potential rewards in creating new anti-cancer treatments”. CRT will receive milestone payments and royalties.

Keith Blundy, chief executive of CRT, said the deal is a major milestone in the development of the unit’s Discovery Laboratories “which have been created to advance early-stage cancer discoveries to a point where they are attractive to commercial collaborators”. He added that increasing evidence shows that cancer metabolism is an exciting area of research as it is “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”. Les Hughes, global vice president of cancer research at AstraZeneca, said the deal with CRT “will enable us to speed up research in this exciting area”.

Harpal Kumar, CRUK’s chief executive, said that “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”.