New PCRF grant to support pancreatic cancer research at BCI

Zoe Leech Posted in Grants & Awards 05 February 2016

The Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund (PCRF) is funding six new research projects, including another here at BCI, with a total of £1 million - bringing the charity’s support for research into the UK’s most lethal cancer to over £8 million.

Included in the 6 funded projects are our Dr Patricia Sancho, and former PhD student, now postdoctoral researcher at Imperial College, Dr Fieke Froeling.

Patricia SanchoDr Sancho will focus on cancer stem cells, which live within tumours and drive the return and spread of cancer cells, even after aggressive chemotherapy. Cancer stem cells can be killed using drugs that cut off their primary energy supply, but they can develop resistance and continue growing over time by switching to an alternative energy source. Dr Sancho will investigate more powerful drugs or combined treatments to attack the two main energy sources at the same time and eliminate the cancer stem cells.

Dr Froeling‘s project will focus on epigenetics - changes in DNA that can switch genes on and off and lead to cancer without altering the genetic code itself. Dr Froeling and her team will profile different pancreatic tumours and cell lines to look for biomarkers that will enable them to predict which patients will respond best to the different drugs being developed to combat differen tepigenetic changes. This will allow individual patients to be matched with the most effective treatment for their type of tumour.

Recent projects - all supported by Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund - have made significant advances. These include:

  • A project led by Dr Tanja Crnogorac-Jurcevic here at BCI found three biomarkers which together could form the basis of a simple and inexpensive urine test for early stage pancreatic cancer
  • Delegates at PCRF’s 2015 supporters conference heard Prof John Marshall report that progress made following a PRCF-funded project at BCI is leading to clinical trials.
  • Exciting PCRF-funded virotherapy research by Dr Yaohe Wang now being refined for clinical trials.

These new grants are in addition to the £2 million committed to the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund Tissue Bank, which launched in January 2016 and will accelerate research progress. The Tissue Bank is the world’s first nationally co-ordinated pancreas tissue bank and was described by our director, Prof Lemoine, as: "one of the most important developments in resourcing UK pancreatic cancer research in a generation”.

PCRF’s founder and CEO, Maggie Blanks, said:

“In the charity’s early years, we had to focus on basic research to help understand pancreatic cancer and its mechanisms, with the knowledge that this would be a springboard for future research progress. More recently – typified by this year’s grants – we’ve been able to focus on projects that are closer to patients. These include innovative ways of making current treatments much more effective, developing ‘personalised medicine’ approaches and finding ways to diagnose the disease in its earliest stages.

“We’re committed to beating this disease and thanks to our loyal supporters whose fundraising enables us to fund all these projects and initiatives, we’re making real progress towards this goal.”

This is the third year that PCRF has invested £1 million in a single funding round. In total, the charity has funded 40 cutting edge research projects across the UK and Ireland, worth over £6 million.

With thanks to the PCRF press office and all the charity's supporters

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