Cancer Research UK and its commercial arm Cancer Research Technology (CRT) are partnering with Astellas Pharma to find new drug targets for cancer. The consortium will conduct a two-year research program in the U.K. specifically focusing on pancreatic cancer.

The first stage of the collaboration aims to identify and then validate the best possible drug targets to block the autophagy pathway in pancreatic cancer cells. This research will be carried out by Kevin Ryan, Ph.D., at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute and Sharon Tooze, Ph.D., at the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute. Astellas has an exclusive license to progress the most promising candidates through further drug discovery and development, subject to milestone and royalty payments to CRT. 

According to Cancer Research UK, certain pancreatic cancers are dependent on autophagy in order to grow. Blocking this pathway may help stop some pancreatic cancers in their tracks, the organization said. “Research suggests that pancreatic cancer can be dependent on autophagy making it an excellent pathway to target for drug discovery,” said Ryan.

Keith Blundy, Ph.D., CEO of CRT, added: “In establishing this significant collaboration, the first of its kind between CRT and a Japanese pharmaceutical company, we’re bringing together Cancer Research U.K.’s world-leading target validation expertise and Astellas’ proven track record on drug development.” 

The article has been corrected from an earlier version which originally referred to the cancer being targeted as prostate cancer, not pancreatic cancer. GEN regrets the error.

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