Cancer Research Technology, the oncology-focused development and commercialisation company owned by charity Cancer Research UK, and The Beatson Institute for Cancer Research have entered a new research partnership with drug major AstraZeneca to develop optical imaging techniques for use in cancer research.

AstraZeneca is putting its financial muscle behind the three-year collaboration, funding the development of “cutting-edge, real-time fluorescence and confocal imaging techniques,” according to the groups.

Studies based at the Beatson Institute and run by Cancer Research UK-funded scientists have the primary goal of developing non-invasive imaging technologies for studying tumour progression, and will look at tumour development, invasion and metastasis.

The partnership will first focus on the development and validation of fluorescent probes and reporters for deep tissue imaging of specific targets, and then these will be further developed for the detection of tumour cells, identification of apoptosis or assessment of blood flow. The studies will look at the mechanism of tumour invasion and investigate the effect of therapeutic or molecular intervention. In addition, methods and software packages for quantifying image data will be explored.

“The development of techniques for tumour imaging in real-time is likely to generate important new information relating to the effects of interventions, thereby accelerating drug development,” the groups said in a statement.