Cancer Research UK has announced a series of academic-business ventures aimed at cracking some of the most pressing questions in cancer medicine. It is now seeking a pharmaceutical industry partner for the first of three joint ventures to work with a cutting-edge team of CRUK scientists to speed the production of breakthrough treatments in the important area of senescence.

Any profits arising from the partnerships will be shared between the two organisations, with Cancer Research UK re-investing any proceeds in its future research work.

The business relationships will be managed by the charity's Cancer Research Technology business arm.
This first project will look at utilising cellular senescence – restoring cancer cells' mortality so that they begin to die rather than multiply indefinitely. The researchers hope this will lead to important new drugs against cancers such as melanoma.

Team leader Professor Nicol Keith - a professor of molecular oncology at University of Glasgow told PharmaTimes News Online: "Senescence offers a very rich vein of cancer drug discovery. This isn't about blue-sky research; this isn't about knowledge for knowledge's sake; this is about making things work."
They plan to design tests to screen for new drugs that could kick-start senescence.

Bridging the gap
Nick Adams, director of business development at Antisoma, providing the industry's perspective, said the initiative "would help bridge the gap between industry and academia". "And this is important," he said, "because there are still a lot of gaps between what's happening in academia and what industry needs and wants."

Cancer Research UK's chief executive Harpal Kumar added: "This exciting scheme represents a new way to take forward the potential of our early scientific research in a cost effective manner, and to work with businesses which have a proven record in achieving success."

CRT business manager Simon Youlton said the next project, to begin in 2009, will focus on cancer stem cells while the one after that, in 2010, will look at the histone code. So far the industrial partners for these ventures have not been decided. There are currently three drugs in phase III development in partnership between CRT and pharmaceutical firms; Satraplatin with GPC Biotech for prostate cancer; Stimuvax with Merck Serono for non-small cell lung cancer and Trovax with Oxford Biomedica for renal and colorectal cancer.