Oxford Pancreatic Network Launch

As November 21st marks World Pancreatic Cancer Day, Oxford clinicians and scientists are uniting in the fight against the world’s toughest cancer. To launch this, Oxford clinicians and scientists met for the first Oxford Pancreatic Network meeting on Tuesday 19th November, organised by Dr Rachael Bashford-Rogers (WTCHG) and Dr Shivan Sivakumar (Oncology, KIR and pancreatic cancer oncologist) in collaboration with the CRUK Cancer Oxford Centre.

Pancreatic cancer has the worst survival of any human cancer. This is a tumour that has minimal response to conventional treatment and is extremely aggressive. The disease course is silent and is picked up mainly when incurable. To tackle this clinical need, we are bringing together experimental, clinical and statistical expertise from Oxford’s scientific community to investigate the microenvironment across multiple pancreatic pathologies and to plan new approaches to treatment strategies for improving patient outcome.

This pioneering proposal of the study of cause and effect of pancreatic disease, ranging from pancreatic cancer and pre-cancerous lesions to pancreatitis, immune-related diseases, type 1 and 2 diabetes, will be achieved through the integration of state-of-the-art technologies, underpinned by strong bioinformatics and functional studies. The aim of the work is to truly understand the pancreas and how it causes such significant but varying diseases. Helping us understand this may truly help us unlock the potential to treat pancreatic cancer.

This work will use knowledge gained from cross-pancreatic diseases to:
• understand which cells are able to enter the pancreatic micro-environment and their functions
• the modes of anti-tumour/auto-reactive activity
• strategies for early detection
• effect of current therapies/toxicities
• develop models of how to modulate the function and pancreatic infiltration of cells
• to direct us towards more targeted therapies across pancreatic diseases, such as through novel immunotherapies, and developing new clinical trials

Through this new partnership of expertise, we aim to build a new strategy to make an impact in the treatment of these pancreatic diseases.

Breast cancer awareness month

Sir Peter Ratcliffe Awarded Nobel Prize

Three scientists who discovered how cells sense and adapt to oxygen levels, including Oxford’s Sir Peter Ratcliffe, have been awarded a Nobel Prize. With William Kaelin (Harvard) and Gregg Semenza (Johns Hopkins) he shares the 2019 physiology or medicine prize. Their work is leading to new treatments for many diseases including cancer.

Prof. Xin Lu (Cancer Research UK Oxford Centre co-director) – “It is wonderful that the outstanding achievements of Peter and his colleagues are being recognised and celebrated. Oxygen levels affect cell metabolism and growth. Many cancer cells that grow in areas of a tumour with low oxygen levels – hypoxia – are resistant to cancer therapies, such as radiotherapy. This ground-breaking research into how cells sense oxygen by Peter and his team highlights the importance of basic biology research and how this knowledge can advance our understanding of cancer initiation and enable future development of effective treatment strategies.”

Moving to Oxford to study renal medicine in the early 90’s, Peter played a key part in a trans-Atlantic community’s efforts to understand the molecular sensors by which animal cells respond to oxygen starvation, or hypoxia. These studies not only led him to discover that crucial sensor but, also an entirely new mechanism of intracellular singling. For these and other contributions to the understanding and potential treatment of  cancer and other diseases, Peter was knighted in 2014 and shares the prestigious 2016 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, again with William Kaelin and Gregg Semenza.

Prof. Mark Middleton (Cancer Research UK Oxford Centre co-director) – “I’m proud to see science at Oxford recognised in this way. Sir Peter’s work has contributed massively to our understanding of how cancers develop. His insights show several ways in which we might improve the treatment of cancer, and their impact is being felt in the clinic today.”

The University of Oxford announces it has dosed the first patients in a phase I study of NUC-7738