Cancer Research UK has cherry-picked research projects at four UK universities that will benefit from a £10-million fund designed to help advance the development of new cancer medicines.

The charity has awarded grants of £500,000 per year for five years to projects at Imperial College London, University of Oxford, University of Strathclyde and The School of Pharmacy in London, to encourage research into the use of small molecules in the development of new and targeted cancer drugs.

The group says the projects range from developing therapies for leukaemia to discovering new drugs to beat drug resistance in breast and prostate cancer treatments. “Recent advances in our understanding of the biology of cancer have revolutionised the way we discover drugs, using specific targets as starting points. The four projects will embrace this method of drug discovery,” explained CRUK’s executive director of clinical and translational research, Professor Herbie Newell.

“We hope the discoveries will complement our existing drug development programmes and other aspects of the charity’s work, including trials geared towards improving existing treatments for cancer patients,” he added.

In 2006, the charity sank a record £315 million into research, almost double the amount invested five years ago, and the move to fund these four projects falls under its wider plans to substantially expand its drug discovery programmes. To this end, Newell promised a greater investment in “developing new approaches to treatments and getting the most promising drugs into first clinical trials in man faster”.