Prostate cancer affects around 40,000 men in the UK every year (approximately 12% of all cancer cases), leading to more than 10,000 deaths per year. While survival for prostate cancer is relatively high - 5 year survival after diagnosis is over 80% – it is clear that more can be done.
Here at the BCI, we have teams working specifically on prostate cancer, and a great deal of basic research that can also feed into our knowledge and development of new treatments for the disease.
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Lung Cancer Alliance launched
Friday 26 April 2013
Leading research institutions and hospitals across London, including Barts Cancer Institute, have united to transform lung cancer care by inviting patients from a population of six million into a pioneering new programme of clinical trials.
Lung cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK after breast cancer, with 42,000 new cases in 2010. Survival rates in the UK are distressingly low and worse than in much of Europe – less than 10 per cent of patients survive five years after their diagnosis.
The initiative is being backed by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and by England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally C Davies.
The Alliance aims to deliver dramatic benefits for patients in London, nationally and worldwide – through collaboration, coordination and an ambition to give every patient access to a trial suitable for them.
Researchers will genetically profile tumours and test a panel of targeted therapies – many previously untried in lung cancer - in those with particular molecular defects. They will also develop ‘liquid biopsy’ blood tests for patients who are too ill to biopsy, or to monitor whether drugs are working and assess for signs of resistance.
Dr Tyson Sharp, Non-Clinical Senior Lecturer at Queen Mary and group leader at the BCI, said:
“Here at Barts Cancer Institute we combine both basic molecular biology and clinical research to advance our understanding and treatment of many different types of cancer.
“My group’s specific interest is in the early events that initiate lung cancer and the use of novel genetic targets to develop tumour-specific and patient-specific therapies.
“Our molecular and cell biology research and model system of disease development fit perfectly with the overarching strategy of the Alliance and in so doing will also significantly benefit patient health through access to the six million patients available in this exciting new initiative.”
Member organisations plan a programme of research that will ultimately make trials of cutting-edge personalised therapies available to up to 3,000 newly diagnosed patients a year.
Covering the entire lung cancer pathway from the identification and screening of at-risk individuals through to end-stage disease, the London Lung Cancer Alliance will also link up with five other cities across the UK.
All patients within a six-million catchment area in London, along with those in Newcastle, Southampton, Liverpool, Cardiff and Edinburgh, will eventually be offered gene testing of their cancers at diagnosis.As many patients as possible will then be offered one of a panel of targeted therapies matched to their cancer’s particular molecular defects.
Professor Alan Ashworth, Chair of the London Lung Cancer Alliance and Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, said:
“For far too long the prospects for patients with lung cancer have been bleak. But now we have an opportunity to change that as new genetic techniques for studying tumours open up the prospect of trialling novel targeted therapies for lung cancer.
“The London Lung Cancer Alliance has brought together leading organisations across London with the aim of applying state-of-the-art technology to radically shake up the way we treat lung cancer.
“We believe that this new alliance will genuinely improve the prospects for lung cancer patients.”
In addition to the Barts Cancer Institute, the London Alliance includes: Imperial College London; Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust; King’s College London (as part of King’s Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre); Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust; The Institute of Cancer Research, London; The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust.
See also: this article in the Telegraph.
CANBUILD - Engineering 3D Human Tumours
£2million project led by Professor Frances Balkwill aims to revolutionise the study of cancer cells in the lab
The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded researchers at Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary University of London, a €2.43million grant for a project that aims to revolutionise the field of cancer cell research: using bioengineering techniques to grow the first complex 3D human tumour in the laboratory.
Human cancers are more than just malignant cells, even at their very beginning. Other cells and chemicals that normally support and protect the body are hijacked by the cancer cells, instead helping the cancer to grow and spread.
Recent research has shown us the importance of targeting not only the malignant cancer cells but also this wider tumour microenvironment for long-term cancer treatment.
In the CANBUILD project, the multi-disciplinary team of scientists will be using the latest advances in tissue engineering, biomechanics, imaging and stem cell biology. They believe this combination will make it possible to engineer, for the first time, a complex 3D human tumour in which the different cell types making up the tumour microenvironment could communicate, evolve and grow in vitro (outside the body, in the laboratory).
The CANBUILD goal is to recreate the tumour microenvironment found in high-grade human ovarian cancer; the subtype that leads to 70 per cent of all ovarian cancer deaths. However, the research may have implications for several other cancer types as well.
The vision is that this project will replace traditional techniques in which human cancer cells are grown in isolation on plastic surfaces. Success in the CANBUILD project may also provide better ways of testing new drugs that target the human tumour microenvironment.
Professor Fran Balkwill, from Barts Cancer Institute, is Principal Investigator on the CANBUILD project. Professor Balkwill said:
“About half the cells in a tumour are not cancer cells, but ‘healthy’ cells such as immune cells and fibroblasts, which the cancer is somehow corrupting to help it grow and spread.
“It seems logical that the best long-term treatments will come from combining both therapies that target the cancer cells with something aimed at the wider tumour microenvironment which, while not cancerous cells themselves, are supporting the cancer’s growth.
“Growing an in vitro model, which contains all these types of cells, will allow us to watch how the cells communicate and how the tumour grows, teaching us more about what is going on in this complex system and hopefully giving us a model we can test new drugs on.”
The five-year research plan involves:
- ‘Deconstruction’ of the human ovarian cancer tumour microenvironment
- Constructing the artificial scaffold, optimising growth of different cell types, and assembling the model
- Comparing the model to fresh human tissue
- Investigating the roles of individual cells
- Testing new treatments that target the tumour microenvironment
The ERC funding will also allow the team to communicate their research via the Centre of the Cell, Queen Mary’s award-winning science education centre and online resource, widening participation and outreach.
The CANBUILD Team at Queen Mary, University of London:
William Harvey Research Institute
Professor Sussan Nourshargh
Dr John Connelly
Professor Ian MacKenzie
School of Engineering and Materials Science
Professor Martin Knight
Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute
Dr James Brenton
EcolePolytechniqueFédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)
Dr Jeff Hubbell
- Article by BCI PhD student shortlisted for "Access to Understanding 2013" science writing competition
- Pinnacle of Success: Prestigious Awards for Cancer Prevention
- Dr Alan Ramsay writes for the European Hematology Association
- Dr Michael Keogh's Talk on 13 December at 2:30pm, JVSC, Charterhouse Square
- An interview with Prof. Kenneth Anderson, BCI sponsored speaker at NCRI 2012
- Stand Up for Cancer raises £6.4M for Cancer Research
- Image from Dr Alan Ramsay's latest BCI publication makes the cover of Blood journal
- Patient meets scientist: David Taylor interviews Prof Fran Balkwil
- Dr Thorsten Hagemann talks about the tumour microenvironment on eCancer.TV
- BCI researchers awarded Cancer Research-UK grant for new high tech gene projects.