AstraZeneca, Cancer Research Technology and The Institute of Cancer Research have formed a new partnership that aims to discover promising novel cancer therapies targeting molecular ‘chaperones’.

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker is sinking over £4 million into the three-year alliance, during which CRT – the commercial arm of Cancer Research UK – will lead work on the development of candidates targeting molecular chaperones, which seem to play a role in supporting the growth of cancer cells.

Recent research indicates that molecular chaperones, which ensure that new proteins form the correct ‘shape’ to function properly, also promote the activity of cancer-causing proteins as well as help cancer cells to survive and become more aggressive, and thereby offer a new target for therapies, the groups explain.

“By working together in this collaboration, we hope to exploit an ‘Achilles heel’ in the chaperone and stress pathways of cancer cells that will lead to the discovery of new powerful drugs to fight cancer,” said Professor Paul Workman, director of the Cancer Research UK Centre for Cancer Therapeutics at the ICR.

And explaining AstraZeneca’s interest in the project, Dr Les Hughes, Vice President of Discovery for the Oncology and Infection Research Area, said: “We are impressed by the potential in these targets and are delighted to be joining forces with this world-renowned research team to progress this work”.

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Under the terms of the agreement, a joint research committee composed of members of all parties will decide which compounds are to be taken forward, and the intention is that AstraZeneca will then develop any candidates that arise from the collaboration, a spokesperson for CRT explained to PharmaTimes UK News.

Consequently, the drug giant has obtained an exclusive worldwide licence to commercialise the compounds developed during the collaboration and, in return, CRT and the ICR will get up-front and milestone payments as well as royalties on sales of any future products generated from the alliance.