Cancer treatment study launched
MEDICS and scientists in Plymouth have launched a pioneering study into the treatment of cancer.
A team from Plymouth University and Derriford Hospital is researching why chemotherapy drugs cure some patients but not others.
Professor Awadhesh Jha, of the university's School of Biomedical and Biological Sciences, said they aim to improve the fundamental understanding of cancer and its treatment.
The two-year project will focus on lung and ovarian cancers, but could have implications for a wide variety of tumours.
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The around £225,000 study has been jointly funded by the hospital and university. Around £65,000 has come from Derriford and the hospital's Magic Rainbow Appeal charity fund.
Prof Jha said: "Some people get cured, some do not. We want to know what determines this at a molecular level.
"The key objective of this project is to find why some patients respond to some treatments, specific drugs, while others do not, how the genetic make-up of the individuals and the tumours themselves play roles in this differential sensitivity of tumours." Cancer is one of the world's major killers, accounting for 25 per cent of registered deaths, said Prof Jha.
"It is not only challenging from a socio-economic situation but puts a huge pressure on the infrastructure of health services," he said.
"Biologically it is challenging and interesting to study.
"Cancer cells originate from one single cell. One single cell becomes selfish and starts dividing at the cost of other cells in the body. This is the mystery we have not been able to resolve despite all the progress of science."
Dr Dennis Yiannakis, Derriford Hospital consultant oncologist, said the new research is about developing 'personalised medicine' – being able to give chemotherapy treatment specific to the genetic make-up of a cancer and patient.
"This is a huge area and it's under big investigation across the world," he said. "We are looking at a couple of things in particular to do with this field."
Research fellows Dr Nick Dodd and Dr Ildiko Gyory have been appointed to carry out the work at the university.
Dr Dodd will examine how drugs affect cell membranes, while Dr Gyory will look at how they change DNA.
They are also looking at the effect of giving smaller doses of chemotherapy once a week instead of larger doses every three weeks.
The researchers are also examining PARP inhibitors, a new type of cancer treatment being developed worldwide.
They will collaborate with oncologists and other staff in the Derriford Hospital.
The scientists have started to look at how common chemotherapy drugs cisplatin and taxol affect tumours. They are using cell samples of different types of cancer from the UK Human Tissue Bank.