The UK’s Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund (PCRF) has awarded funding to five groundbreaking projects that will include making existing cancer treatments more effective
Watch Our Born to Engineer Video Featuring Biomedical Engineer Eleanor Stride
Dr Eleanor Stride is a biomedical engineer working at Oxford University to develop revolutionary new methods for delivering chemotherapy drugs.
Eleanor works to create and control microbubbles which can be injected into the bloodstream of cancer patients, magnetically guided to the site of the cancer and then burst using ultrasound, releasing the chemotherapy drugs at the site of the cancer.
PCRF CEO Maggie Blanks explained that “the charity’s sole focus is to generate a deeper knowledge about pancreatic cancer that can underpin the development of new treatments and diagnostic tools that will ultimately save patients’ lives. There are no ‘quick wins’ with this strategy; we always knew that it would be a long haul, which makes it all the more heartening to see some of the earliest projects we funded getting so close to clinical trials.”
The new grants mean that PCRF is currently investing over £7 million in cutting-edge research projects, as well as pledging an additional £2 million to the creation of the first national pancreas tissue bank.
Funding is set to be provided for:
- A new test to diagnose early stage pancreatic cancer developed by Dr Tanja Crnogorac-Jurcevic (Barts Cancer Institute) and Dr Nathalie Massat (Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine), Queen Mary University of London
The funding will enable the test ( which looks at urinary biomarkers ) to further develop a combined ‘risk score’ for each biomarker in a panel
- A new drug treatment from Professor John Marshall at Queen Mary University, which is made from a protein fragment (a peptide) and can find and attach itself to alpha-v beta-6 (which is found in 90% of pancreatic cancer cells). The drug can then be combined with a potent natural poison to kill the cancer cells and leave healthy cells unharmed.
- A cutting edge method of delivering oxygen and chemotherapy drugs directly to pancreatic tumours using harmless ultrasound.
The technique is being developed by Professors John Callan and Anthony McHale, Ulster University, with Professors Eleanor Stride and Katherine Vallis, University of Oxford and surgeon Mr Mark A Taylor, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.
- New compounds that could block a cycle of signals that occurs in cancers that allow cells to become permanently switched on and divide uncontrollably from Professor Alex Breeze, the University of Leeds and Professor Mike Waring, Newcastle University.
- Research into a poorly understood genetic defect which means some Pancreatic cancer cells display ‘chromosomal instability’ (chromosomes are deleted or rearranged during cell division) by Dr Sarah McClelland, Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary University of London.
It is hoped that efforts to limit this defect before administering chemotherapy would improve a patients’ response.