Oxford to lead work towards more personalised care for patients

Oxford is today named as a centre for excellence leading the drive to tailor more treatments to the needs of individual patients.

A Precision Medicine Catapult centre will be established in Oxford bringing together business and research to develop new products and services.

This project will be led by the Oxford Academic Health Science Network which will connect partners across the NHS, universities, research and industry with a particular focus on harnessing big data and developing new diagnostic tests. The aim is to accelerate the adoption of innovation in the NHS at pace and scale.

The announcement that Oxford will be one of six regional centres of excellence came from the Precision Medicine Catapult, funded by Innovate UK.

Precision medicine is the use of diagnostic tests and data-based insights to understand a patient’s disease more precisely leading to the selection of treatments which produce more predictable, safer and cost-effective outcomes.

Prof Gary Ford, Chief Executive of the Oxford Academic Health Science Network (AHSN), said: “Oxford has world- leading capability in precision medicine and a long history of developing new targeted therapies for patients.

“Designation as a Precision Medicine Catapult centre will speed up translation of scientific discovery into targeted treatments for patients and more rapid adoption into clinical services across our region and the wider NHS.”

Professor Keith Channon, Director of Research & Development at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Director of the National Institute for Health Research Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, said: “We are delighted that Oxford has been designated a Precision Medicine Catapult centre of excellence.

“This reflects the exciting innovations flowing from our NIHR Biomedical Research Centre and Academic Health Science Centre that will help us to develop and to introduce more personalised treatments for patients across the Oxford Academic Health Science Network region and beyond.”

Professor June Girvin, Pro Vice Chancellor and Dean of the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at Oxford Brookes University, said: “Brookes is delighted to hear that Oxford will be a centre of excellence for precision medicine.

“As one of the four partners in the Oxford Academic Health Science Centre, we see this as another example of how health care research, education and practice in Oxford is absolutely at the forefront of innovation.”

Watch the below Oxford AHSN video, featuring Prof Sir John Bell, setting out the challenges and opportunities for Oxford in the field of precision medicine


Identifying cancer’s food sensors may help to halt tumour growth

Oxford University researchers have identified a protein used by tumours to help them detect food supplies. Initial studies show that targeting the protein could restrict cancerous cells’ ability to grow.

A team from Oxford University’s Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics led by CRUK Oxford Centre Member Dr Deborah Goberdhan worked with oncologist and researcher, Professor Adrian Harris, to understand the effects of this protein called PAT4.

Dr Goberdhan said: ‘We found that aggressive cancer cells manufacture more PAT4, which enables them to make better use of available nutrients than the cells around them – including healthy tissue.’

Cancer cells often have restricted access to the body’s nutrient-rich blood supply. The ability to sense and acquire nutrients is critical for a cancer to grow.

Dr Goberdhan’s and Prof Harris’s groups collaborated to develop an antibody that could be used to highlight PAT4 in human tissue samples. This was then used to study anonymous tumour samples taken from patients with colorectal cancer, a common form of the disease.

The results were compared to the known outcomes for the patients. Those who had higher levels of PAT4 in their tumours did less well than those with lower levels – being more likely to relapse and die.

The researchers then looked at what happened when PAT4 levels were reduced. They showed that by reducing PAT4 levels, cancerous tumours grew more slowly.

Dr Goberdhan said: ‘These findings support each other. Not only do higher levels of PAT4 mean a worse outcome, but lowering levels improves the situation. This means that we have identified a mechanism which cancer cells prefer to use and which we might be able to target as part of a combination treatment.’

The research, funded by Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council was published in the science journal Oncogene on 5 October 2015. It continues and may eventually provide a way of increasing survival from cancer.

Oxford University Hospitals becomes a Foundation Trust

Monitor, the regulator of NHS Services in England, has granted NHS Foundation Trust status to Oxford University Hospitals. At a Board meeting on 30 September 2015, Monitor agreed that Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust should exist from today, 1 October 2015.

This decision comes after the Care Quality Commission gave OUH an overall rating of ‘Good’ in May 2014, and after scrutiny of the Trust’s quality, finances, service delivery and governance arrangements by the NHS Trust Development Authority and Monitor.

Sir Jonathan Michael, Chief Executive of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “The work we have done to become a foundation trust has involved a journey of improvement that needed to happen anyway. Foundation trust status has been a stimulus to us to pursue this improvement but was not a destination in itself.

“Becoming a Foundation Trust is recognition of the work we have done to improve the quality and efficiency of our services for patients and the capability we have to continue these improvements. It also provides more local accountability through our membership and Council of Governors.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank our fantastic staff for their continued commitment to delivering high quality healthcare for all our patients. We recognise that becoming a foundation trust does not in itself solve the challenges facing us or the NHS nationwide. We will continue to focus on sustaining delivering safe and high quality care, living within our means and meeting national standards in a very difficult financial climate.”

Dame Fiona Caldicott, Chairman of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said:

“Being a Foundation Trust will enable us to continue to improve our services by increasing the involvement of patients, staff and the local communities that we serve through our membership. It means that our Council of Governors will now play an important role in holding the Board of Directors to account, appointing Non-executive Directors and contributing to the strategic direction of the Trust.

“This is a most exciting event for the Trust and a vote of confidence in the achievements and capability of our staff.”

For more information on Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust visit the website here.