Latest news from Senectus Therapeutics

Cancer cell senescence: a new frontier in drug development – Senectus review paper is published in Drug Discovery Today

February 16th, 2012

Senescence forms a universal block to tumorigenesis which impacts on all hallmarks of cancer, making it an attractive target for drug discovery. Therefore a strategy must be devised to focus this broad potential into a manageable drug discovery programme. Several issues remain to be addressed including the lack of robust senescence-inducing compounds and causally related biomarkers to measure cellular response. Here, we review the latest progress in translating senescence as a target for cancer therapy and some promising approaches to drug and biomarker discovery. Finally, we discuss the potential application of a senescence-induction therapy in a clinical setting.

Click here to read the review in full.


March 23rd, 2011

Senectus Therapeutics* has signed a deal to screen a selection of AstraZeneca’s chemical compound library to identify those which trigger a key element of cancer cell ageing – called senescence.

Senescent cells are those which after many rounds of cell growth and division enter a ‘sleep’ phase where the normal cell cycle is stopped. This blocks the uncontrolled growth and division of cells. It is a natural mechanism to prevent cancer. But cancer cells find ways to trick their way past this block and continue to grow and divide.

Understanding the triggers to cell ageing may reveal molecular targets for completely new ways to treat cancer. 

The Senectus consortium,** a group of Cancer Research UK experts in senescence, has developed a screening platform to identify compounds which trigger this cancer cell ageing process and also find potential new drug targets.

The deal will allow the consortium to screen a well characterised sub-set of AstraZeneca’s compound library to identify those which potentially trigger senescence. Thereafter the parties will decide how or if they want to progress individual compounds.

Dr Phil L’Huillier, Cancer Research Technology’s director of business development and chairman of Senectus Therapeutics, said: “The collaboration with Senectus is one of a number of initiatives that AstraZeneca has put in place to use its compound library in early stage research, to explore novel mechanisms that may lead to new therapeutics. The collaboration recognises the value and potential AstraZeneca attributes to the Senectus screening platform.

“Before now, there hasn’t been a reliable and robust process to identify compounds which trigger senescence. The Senectus consortium has addressed these hurdles and developed the relevant tools and approaches to identify the ways by which cancer cells escape cell ageing. This opens up an exciting and valuable area for scientists to discover new routes to treat cancer.”

Through this collaboration AstraZeneca has the opportunity to extend the agreement with Senectus to investigate any compounds with properties that may lead to future cancer treatments. 

Dr. Paul Elvin, principal scientist, AstraZeneca, said:  “Collaboration with Senectus complements their knowledge-base and experimental platform with well characterised molecules that will provide insight into the nature of some key drivers of senescence.”

Nicol Keith, Cancer Research UK’s Professor of Molecular Oncology at the University of Glasgow, and co-ordinator of the Senectus team, said: “The joint work programme with AstraZeneca emphasises the importance of senescence as an exciting, untapped pool of new therapeutic targets which could provide potential new routes to treat cancer.

“To date there has been very little progress in translating laboratory findings into therapeutic targets. By bringing together these expert groups from industry and academia we have the best group of people to speed up development in this area.”


For media enquiries please contact Emma Rigby on 020 3469 8300 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.

Notes to editor:

*Senectus Therapeutics received £0.5m grant from Cancer Research UK’s Discovery Committee in May 2008 and has just secured a further two years of funding also for £0.5m.

** Senectus Therapeutics protects and markets research produced by the Senectus consortium – comprising Cancer Research UK scientists** with expertise in senescence brought together to further research in the field.

***Compounds which have been designed to modulate a variety of validated drug targets to treat a range of diseases including cancer. These compounds are suitable to be tested in live models.

In May 2009, Senectus Therapeutics Ltd., was incorporated as a ‘virtual company’ to directly manage any intellectual property generated by the consortium. Formation of Senectus Therapeutics enables any intellectual property to be managed by the company and facilitates negotiations with any third party looking for investment or collaborative interactions. The company is managed by CRT.

About Cancer Research Technology (CRT)

Cancer Research Technology (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 a wholly owned subsidiary of Cancer Research UK, the largest independent funder of cancer research in the world. Further information about CRT can be found at

About Cancer Research UK

      Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research

  • The charity’s groundbreaking work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.  This work is funded entirely by the public.
  • Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival rates double in the last forty 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 beat cancer.

Professor Nicol Keith speaking at the National Cancer Institute, Milan, Italy, 7th June.

May 27th, 2010

Senectus Therapeutics researcher Professor Nicol Keith is presenting a talk entitled ‘Why is cellular senescence an attractive target for drug discovery?’ at The National Cancer Institute of Milan, Monday June 6th 2010 in Milan, Italy.

Professor Nicol Keith speaking at the Society for Biomolecular Sciences Annual Conference on Advancing the Science of Drug Discovery, April 13th 2010

January 18th, 2010

Senectus Therapeutics researcher Professor Nicol Keith is presenting a talk entitled “Novel Cascades of Cell Based Assays to Elucidate Inducers of Senescence and Inhibitors of Telomerase Function.” at The Society for Biomolecular Sciences Annual Conference on Advancing the Science of Drug Discovery, Tuesday April 13th 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. For further details please refer to the conference website:

Dr Masashi Narita speaking at the AACR-NCI-EORTC Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics conference, 15th – 19th November 2009

October 8th, 2009

Senectus Therapeutics researcher Dr Masashi Narita is presenting a talk entitled “Autophagy as an effector program in senescence” at the conference on Wednesday 18th November in Boston, USA. For further details please refer to the conference website:–workshops/molecular-targets-and-cancer-therapeutics.aspx#

Senectus Therapeutics researchers Prof Nicol Keith and Dr Chris Torrance will also be conference attendees.

Dr Masashi Narita speaking at the NCRI conference, 4th – 7th October 2009

September 8th, 2009

Senectus Therapeutics researcher Dr Masashi Narita is presenting a talk entitled “Autophagy in oncogene-induced senescence” at the NCRI conference on Tuesday 6th October in Birmingham, UK. For further details please refer to the conference website:

Recent publications in the field of senescence from Senectus Therapeutics researchers

July 20th, 2009

The following are recent publications from team members of relevance to Senectus’ research:

Autophagy mediates the mitotic senescence transition.
Young AR, Narita M, Ferreira M, Kirschner K, Sadaie M, Darot JF, Tavaré S, Arakawa S, Shimizu S, Watt FM, Narita M.
Genes Dev. 2009 Apr 1;23(7):798-803.
PubMed citation

Pathway analysis of senescence-associated miRNA targets reveals common processes to different senescence induction mechanisms.
Lafferty-Whyte K, Cairney CJ, Jamieson NB, Oien KA, Keith WN.
Biochim Biophys Acta. 2009 Apr;1792(4):341-52.
PubMed citation

Professor Nicol Keith speaking at The British Pharmaceutical Conference, 7-9th September 2009

July 20th, 2009

Senectus Therapeutics researcher Professor Nicol Keith is presenting a talk entitled “Why is cellular senescence an attractive target for drug discovery?” at The British Pharmaceutical Conference on Monday 7th September in Manchester, UK. For further details please refer to the conference website: