£2 million boost for Leicester scientists to tackle hard-to-treat cancers

Posted by ap507 at Nov 16, 2017 09:24 AM |
Scientists in Leicester are set to benefit from almost £2 million to look into new ways to treat lung cancer and pancreatic cancer

Issued by Cancer Research UK on 16 November 2017

SCIENTISTS in Leicester are set to benefit from almost £2 million to look into new ways to treat lung cancer and pancreatic cancer, two types of the disease that are among the most difficult to treat.

Professor Martin Bushell and Dr John Le Quesne at the MRC Toxicology Unit at the University of Leicester are part of a team of scientists who have been awarded a prestigious Programme Award by leading charity Cancer Research UK to carry out the ground-breaking research.

The funding will allow scientists from Leicester and Glasgow to examine how a specific protein complex called eIF4F is involved in helping cells – including cancer cells – to grow, multiply and survive.

As well as lung and pancreatic cancer, the study will also look at the role of eIF4F in bowel cancer.

The scientists hope that by studying eIF4F they’ll understand more about how it determines which genes – and in turn which proteins – are expressed in lung, pancreatic and bowel cancer cells and the cells surrounding them.

Their hope is that fully understanding the role of this protein complex, and what it looks like, could help them develop new drugs to target it and stop tumours growing in patients with lung, pancreatic or bowel cancer.

For proteins to be made, DNA must be converted into RNA which is then turned into proteins. Like a key that’s needed to start a car, eIF4F starts the process of turning RNA into the proteins cells need to function and grow.

Professor Martin Bushell said: “The problem with cancer is that the cancer cells continuously divide in an uncontrolled manner. Our hope is that finding and developing drugs that can block eIF4F could stop cancer cells from dividing which would mean tumours couldn’t grow.”

Professor Bushell says that the interesting thing about the eIF4F protein complex is that if they can find ways to target it in lung, pancreatic and bowel cancers, they could potentially develop treatments to use in other types of cancer too.

He continued: “We will be looking at lung, pancreatic and bowel cancer cells but, if we can prove our theory that blocking eIF4F stops cancer cells growing in these diseases, we hope we might be able to target multiple different types of cancer.”

The scientists also hope that by increasing their understanding of how eIF4F works, they will be able to divide patients into groups that would be likely to benefit from drugs targeted to it, and those who wouldn’t.

Cancer Research UK Programme Awards provide long-term support to scientists to carry out research that will help them better understand cancer and bring benefits to cancer patients.

Matt Kaiser, Cancer Research UK’s head of discovery research, said: “Pancreatic and lung cancers are an important strategic focus for Cancer Research UK because they are notoriously hard to treat. That is why we have committed to increase investment in these cancers, where survival remains low.

“We now know that focusing on cancer cells themselves is only half the story – the tissue environment surrounding the tumour can be crucial for its growth and survival.

“By understanding the signals in both cancer cells and the supporting cells that are key to this interplay, we hope this research will help scientists to design more effective, targeted treatments for these hard-to-treat cancers.”

Jane Redman, Cancer Research UK’s spokesperson in the East Midlands, said: ““To ensure we make a real difference in hard-to-treat cancers we only fund the best research, as determined by international experts. So this £2 million award is fantastic recognition of the world-leading research being carried out by Professor Bushell, Dr LeQuesne and their team at the MRC Toxicology Unit at the University of Leicester.

“One in two of us in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage in our lives, but the good news is more people are surviving the disease now than ever before. Cancer survival in the UK has doubled since the early 1970s and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress.”


About Cancer Research UK

  • Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.
  • Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.
  • Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on every donation made.
  • Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last 40 years.
  • Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, 3 in 4 people will survive their cancer for at least 10 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 bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.

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