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Cancer Research UK and Cancer Research Technology Join Forces with Astellas on Autophagy to Find New Cancer Treatments

Aug 8, 2014

TOKYO, Aug. 8, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Cancer Research UK and its commercial arm, Cancer Research Technology ("CRT"), are to join forces with Astellas Pharma Inc. (Tokyo, President & CEO: Yoshihiko Hatanaka, "Astellas") to find new drug targets in the fight against cancer, with an initial focus on pancreatic cancer.

Astellas is a pharmaceutical company dedicated to improving the health of people around the world.

As part of a new collaboration, Cancer Research UK, CRT and Astellas will conduct a two-year research programme in the UK to find promising new drug targets for pancreatic cancer.

Certain pancreatic cancers are dependent on autophagy, the process of consuming your own cellular parts for energy, in order to grow. Blocking this pathway may help stop some pancreatic cancers. 

Under the terms of the deal, the first stage 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 Professor Kevin Ryan at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute and Dr Sharon Tooze 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 certain milestone and royalty payments to CRT. 

Professor Kevin Ryan, Cancer Research UK scientist based at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute, said: "This is an exciting opportunity to develop new drugs for pancreatic cancer where there is an urgent need for new treatments. Research suggests that pancreatic cancer can be dependent on autophagy making it an excellent pathway to target for drug discovery."

Kenji Yasukawa, Ph. D., Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, Astellas, said "Since May 2013, Astellas has invited researchers from around the world to collaborate to increase drug discovery opportunities and expand development pipelines. The aim is to establish links with overseas researchers who have ideas that possess a high level of novelty and creativity. This consortium with Cancer Research UK and CRT is one of the collaborations to be achieved through this global initiative."

New treatments are desperately needed for pancreatic cancer – one of the deadliest forms of cancer. Every year 8,800 people are diagnosed with the disease in the UK but survival rates remain very low, with only three per cent of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer surviving their disease for five years or more after their diagnosis*.

Dr Keith Blundy, Cancer Research Technology's chief executive officer, said: "In establishing this significant collaboration, the first of its kind between CRT and a Japanese pharmaceutical company, we're bringing together Cancer Research UK's world-leading target validation expertise and Astellas' proven track record on drug development, which we hope will lead to new drugs for pancreatic cancer patients. We're excited to commence this collaboration and look forward to furthering our relationship with Astellas in the future."

Notes to Editors:

*http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/survival/common-cancers/  

About Astellas
Astellas Pharma Inc., located in Tokyo, Japan, is a pharmaceutical company dedicated to improving the health of people around the world through the provision of innovative and reliable pharmaceuticals. Astellas has approximately 17,000 employees worldwide. The organization is committed to becoming a global category leader in Urology, Immunology (including Transplantation) and Infectious diseases, Oncology, Neuroscience and Diabetes Mellitus (DM) Complications and Kidney diseases. For more information on Astellas Pharma Inc., please visit the company website at www.astellas.com/en.

About AIM
This partnering has been led by Innovation Management ("AIM"), Astellas.  AIM was a new division established in October, 2013 in order to enhance and accelerate the process of screening and acquiring external opportunities to strengthen innovation during the preclinical development stage. AIM oversees external strategic alliance activities and is responsible for a series of activities in acquiring external innovation opportunities in the preclinical development stage, such as strategy planning, screening, scientific assessment and alliance negotiations, so that strategic external business alliances can be systematically and strategically performed.

About Cancer Research Technology
Cancer Research Technology Limited (CRT) is a specialist commercialisation and development company, which aims to develop new discoveries in cancer research for the benefit of cancer patients. CRT works closely with leading international cancer scientists and their institutes to protect intellectual property arising from their research and to establish links with commercial partners. CRT facilitates the discovery, development and marketing of new cancer therapeutics, vaccines, diagnostics and enabling technologies. CRT is wholly owned by Cancer Research UK, the world's leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research

About Cancer Research UK

  • Cancer Research UK is the world's leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.
  • Cancer Research UK's pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.
  • Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on every pound donated.
  • Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival rates in the UK double in the last forty years.
  • Today, 2 in 4 people survive cancer. Cancer Research UK's ambition is to accelerate progress so that 3 in 4 people will survive cancer within the next 20 years.
  • Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.

For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit www.cancerresearchuk.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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SOURCE Astellas Pharma Inc.

For further information: Cancer Research UK: Emma Rigby on 020 3469 8318, Ailsa Stevens on 020 3469 8309 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059; Corporate Communications, Astellas on +81-3-3244-3201


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