Flagship Projects

Mesothelioma Stratified Therapy (MiST): a multi-arm parallel phase II umbrella trial to evaluate novel targeted therapy in malignant pleural mesothelioma

Professor Dean Fennell

Mesothelioma is a universally lethal cancer caused by exposure to asbestos that is increasing in incidence worldwide. There is currently no approved standard therapy for patients following relapse after initial chemotherapy. Despite the dramatic improvements in clinical outcome that have been made with respect to stratified therapy in other cancers, this approach is currently in its infancy for mesothelioma. This is to be addressed by the MiST trial, a British Lung Foundation funded will be the first clinical research platform which will evaluate the activity and genetic basis of response to molecularly targeted approaches in parallel, with the goal of accelerating discovery of effective treatment.


MRC Molecular Pathology Node in Breathomics (EMBER)EMBER logo

Professor Chris Brightling

East Midlands researchers are leading the establishment of a new centre to develop breath analysis tests that could help in the rapid diagnosis and treatment for a range of conditions, including cancers, respiratory infections and diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.


MRC/BBSRC/BHF Programme UK Biobank study on Biological Ageing

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Dr Veryan Codd

Why do some individuals develop age-associated diseases such as heart disease, cancer and dementia early while others go through their entire life without being affected? The answer to this question is profoundly important for both understanding these diseases as well as healthy ageing. Because of their age-association, we have proposed that these diseases, at least to some extent, are manifestations of accelerated biological ageing. In this project, we will investigate this hypothesis by measuring a marker of biological ageing called telomere length (TL) in all 500,000 individuals in UK Biobank and analysing the relationship of TL to development of these diseases as well as determining genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors that affect TL.


Precision Medicine Cohorts

Professor Martin Tobin

Our unique cohort studies underpin drug discovery:
COPD cohorts

We lead national and international precision medicine consortium studies for:
Coronary artery disease
Aortic aneurysm


Cancer diagnostics utilising circulating free DNA

Professor Jacqui Shaw

The Cancer Diagnostics Facility has been established to undertake contract research and support industry collaborations and is based on our long standing expertise in blood based analysis through the work of Jacqui Shaw, Professor of Translational Cancer Genetics. The facility has a reliable protocol to test blood samples for tumour specific mutations in circulating free DNA (cfDNA) using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) or Droplet Digital PCR (ddPCR) which can be used for a number of research or clinical purposes. Within cfDNA, circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) derived from cancer cells can be distinguished from DNA from normal cells by sequencing key oncogenes (cancer related genes). In the clinical setting, the use of a simple blood test and fast, cost effective analytical techniques would benefit patients and enhance clinical therapeutic decisions such as selecting appropriate treatment and monitoring response.

Targeted NGS allows for simultaneous analysis of potentially hundreds of genes/mutations in a single experiment/sample. The method is cost effective, easy to interpret and has a high sensitivity (limit of detection) (1-5%). Custom panels can be designed to answer specific research or diagnostic questions i.e. for relevant and future 'druggable' targets. Droplet Digital PCR is an analytical technique that achieves a higher sensitivity (<0.1%) for a known mutation/alteration but this is typically limited to analysis of only a few targets. The facility has the capability to extract and analyse plasma (cfDNA), buffy coat or FFPE tumour DNA. The laboratory is currently working to GCLP standards but is in the process of submitting an application to UKAS for accreditation under ISO15189:2012 and plans to participate in the new NEQAS scheme for somatic mutation testing.

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