Reverse The Odds, Play Now!

Anne Kiltie and her team here in the CRUK Oxford Centre are working on bladder cancer, looking at new ways of combining radiotherapy treatments with drugs that hijack how cancer cells handle damage to their DNA. But they’re also interested in ‘biomarkers’ – molecules found in cancer cells that offer a red flag for how a cell may behave based on the amount produced by the cell, or in the case of molecules that drive cancer growth, whether or not these marker molecules are inappropriately ‘switched-on’. This interest stems from an important treatment decision facing people whose bladder cancer has begun to spread into the muscle of the bladder wall – should they opt for surgery to remove their bladder, or a course of radiotherapy? Both treatments have their challenges and long term implications for patients. “It’s actually a life-changing event for them,” Anne explains. But information to help make this decision is lacking.

Crucially, Anne’s team are scouring tumour samples for biomarkers that could indicate whether a patient will respond better to surgery or radiotherapy. Something she hopes will help make the treatment decision a little easier, and ultimately improve survival for people with bladder cancer in the future. But to do this they need to test a lot of potential biomarkers in a lot of bladder cancer samples. And this is where Anne – along with other researchers working on different types of cancer – hopes that the launch of Reverse The Odds can help.

“We have over 800 samples from more than 300 bladder cancer patients,” says Anne. The team takes tiny pieces of these tumour samples – known as ‘cores’ – and sets them in blocks of wax so they can cut extremely thin slices of the samples to image on a microscope. The researchers take these slices and use special dyes to highlight key proteins found inside the cells that the team think may make good biomarkers for bladder cancer. And it’s these coloured images that will feature in the game.

The true power of Citizen Science comes from the sheer number of people analysing the samples. Anne told CRUK that analysing the images largely depends on pattern recognition, something the human eye is particularly good at. But you don’t need to be a “qualified pathologist or experienced scientist” to do this, she added. “Normally three of us would look at the images, but the great impact that Citizen Scientists have is that rather than just having three of them, we potentially have thousands of them, so any slight variations can be ironed out.”

The images will also been seen by lots of people, and the more people that play the game the more accurate the consensus will be. And as Anne points out, there are some important accuracy checks in place along the way: “We are going to score 10 per cent of the samples ourselves to check we get the same results as our Citizen Scientists. We’ve already seen encouraging results from our early tests of the game,” she adds.

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Reverse The Odds has been commissioned by Channel 4 as part of Stand Up To Cancer, and was developed in collaboration with Maverick Television’s multiplatform team and Chunk.

Source CRUK Science Blog 

Uni team discovers gene fault link to higher cancer risk

CITY scientists have discovered why a gene fault could put one in six people at a higher risk of cancer.

The Oxford University team found the gene is ‘switched off’ in about 17 per cent of people.

This could put people at a higher risk of a contracting a number of cancers, including breast, cervical and lung cancer, they said.

They found when the gene, which manages the repair of DNA, is ‘switched off’, broken DNA cannot be fixed and cancer develops.

Prof Eric O’Neill, scientist at the Cancer Research UK and MRC Oxford Institute for Radiation Oncology, said: “This important discovery reveals how a single gene fault could trigger the development of a wide range of cancers, especially lung cancer.

“And crucially it behaves in a similar way to the breast cancer risk gene BRCA which we already know a lot about.

“This may mean that our progress in understanding how to target genetic faults in breast cancer may also have wider relevance for lung and other cancers.”

Original article from Oxford Mail 

Success of largescale bid for OCRC

HEFCE put out a major call in July 2012 for the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UK RPIF). This funding supports long-term university capital projects. We are delighted to share the news of the success of the Oxford bid for an Oxford Targeted Cancer Research Centre

The project will see the establishment of a new world-leading £138m centre for targeted cancer research to develop, test and implement personalised diagnosis, imaging and therapy. The project will be a partnership including the University of Oxford, the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, Cancer Research UK, Synergy Health, Roche Diagnostics and GE Healthcare.

The new centre will be led jointly by Professors Gillies McKenna and Adrian Harris from the University Department of Oncology, and Professor Freddie Hamdy from the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences. This will be a fully comprehensive cancer centre for research involving patients with early-stage cancer.

Potential new cancer drugs have traditionally been first tried out in patients with end-stage disease and results are often disappointing. Even when responses are seen, they are often quite brief. The new centre will change this paradigm by integrating cutting edge molecular diagnostics with an examination of how new drug candidates might be combined with the latest surgery or radiotherapy techniques, in early high risk cancers. The centre will also develop new ways of imaging cancer to select and monitor treatment, to be able to determine very quickly whether the right treatment has been selected.

It is hoped this new approach could see a change in how new treatments are developed for cancer, by combining them with the best available curative treatments.

The project is at a very early stage and there is now much work to be done to bring it to fruition, but we look forward to seeing the plans for the centre develop, and wish the partners every success with the project.

Official Launch of Oxford Cancer Research Centre

Oxford Cancer Research Centre is officially launched

The OCRC was officially launched today, with a celebratory reception taking place on the evening of 15th March. There will be speeches from Professor Peter Johnson (Chief Clinician Cancer Research UK); Professor Gillies McKenna (Head of University of Oxford Department of Oncology); Professor Sir John Bell (University of Oxford Regius Professor of Medicine) and Sir Jonathan Michael (Chief Executive Oxford Radcliffe NHS Trust).

The official press relsease for this story is available below:

A NEW centre launched today (Tuesday) will cement Oxford’s place at the forefront of  cancer research, and form one of the final links in a unique chain of Cancer Research UK Centres across the country.

These new cancer centres will pull together world class laboratory research with medical expertise to provide the best possible results for cancer patients nationwide.
The Oxford Cancer Research Centre is a partnership between Cancer Research UK, the University of Oxford and the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust.

It will help set the pace for national and international progress in the understanding and treatment of a variety of cancers, including breast, skin, urological and gastrointestinal.
Collaboration will be the key to the success of the centre, as it will bring together and build on Oxford’s existing world-class research in many areas of cancer medicine, from identifying the causes of cancer to improving diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

The centre will carry out research on the molecular basis of cancer, as well as work on understanding the genetic and lifestyle factors that can increase the risk of cancer.
Other research strengths will include new methods for improving cancer diagnosis, and finding new ‘biomarkers’ to predict the effect drugs have on patients.

The latest developments in radiotherapy and surgery will be brought together with clinical trials of new drugs, providing the best evidence to guide the treatment of cancer.
Professor Gillies McKenna, director of the Gray Institute for Radiation Oncology and Biology, and head of the Department of Oncology said: “With 2011 designated as the Year of Radiotherapy, there is increased recognition that greater access to this treatment is vital to improving cancer survival.

“Cancer Research UK has long been committed to improving radiotherapy through research, by supporting the Gray Institute in Oxford. The Institute has the world’s largest group of clinicians and scientists working in radiation oncology, and the Oxford Cancer Research Centre will help provide the vital infrastructure to help translate these discoveries into benefits for patients.”

Michael Kinane, 70, from Bicester, was diagnosed in September 2010 with bowel cancer which had spread to the liver.
He began his treatment with radiotherapy for the bowel tumour to relieve symptoms. He then received another form of radiotherapy in combination with chemotherapy to treat the spread of cancer to his liver.

He is being treated at the Oxford Cancer Research Centre, in one of the trials developed by the Gray Institute for Radiation Oncology and Biology at the University of Oxford and supported by the Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research UK.

The trial – known as FOXFIRE – is testing a new treatment called radio-embolisation, a form of internal radiotherapy that uses the tumour’s blood supply to target multiple sites of disease within the liver.

Radiotherapy is already a well-established treatment in bowel cancer. This new way of administering high-dose radiation therapy directly into the blood supply of the cancer could be even more effective at treating bowel cancer which has spread to the liver, when combined with chemotherapy.

“Being part of the trial has been amazingly simple and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity of being given another treatment,” said Michael. “I hope that taking part in this trial will help more people like me in the future. I’ve been lucky to benefit from the excellent research which already takes place in Oxford and it’s good to know that this will become even better with the new Centre.”

Sir Jonathan Michael, chief executive of the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “This is an exciting development for our cancer patients. Patients will benefit from the close working relationship between the Trust and the University. We want to ensure that research is translated into treatment for patients in order to prolong and improve their quality of life.”

The Oxford Cancer Research Centre is the 16th Cancer Research UK-funded centre and will be funded by Cancer Research UK to the tune of £2.8 million in the first year.

Professor Alastair Buchan, head of the medical science division at the University of Oxford, said: “The University of Oxford is delighted to join the Cancer Research UK Centre’s Initiative. The Centre will help bring together the extensive community of outstanding cancer researchers in Oxford, acting as a nucleus for researchers, doctors and patients to engage with each other. It will ensure optimal translation of fundamental research into patient benefit, and will train the next generation of world-leaders in cancer detection, treatment and prevention.”

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “Funding these centres of excellence is one of the charity’s priorities and will enable us to work towards the goals we have set to improve the treatment and survival of cancer patients across all types of cancer.

“We continue to welcome the generous donations we receive from the public to ensure we can continue to build on what we have started today.”

Miracle technique cures grandfather of cancer

A grandfather given “a death sentence” after being diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer has been cured of the disease thanks to a pioneering new technique.

The therapy used on Brian Brooks, 72, involved directly delivering high doses of radiation to tumours deep in the body, via tiny radioactive resin beads injected into his bloodstream. The treatment itself lasted just two days.

Last September doctors told Mr Brooks, a retired dog kennel owner, that he was unlikely to live more than a year after being diagnosed with bowel cancer that had spread to his liver.

However, he was later put on the Foxfire trial, which is testing the new method, called radioembolisation.

Advanced bowel cancer often spreads to the liver, because lots of blood passes directly between these organs.

The size and location of subsequent tumours sometimes makes it difficult to remove them surgically, or treat them using conventional radiotherapy.

This new technique overcomes the the problem by delivering high-dose but short-lived radiation directly into the liver tumours using radioactive ‘microspheres’ injected into their blood supply.

These become trapped in the tumour, killing cancer cells with minimal damage to healthy tissue.

Mr Brooks, from Ely near Cambridge, said: “I was given a death sentence, it’s a very difficult thing to get your head around.

“My family were devastated and one of the worst things for me was thinking I may not see my three-year-old grandson William grow up.”

But he said his wife Nicky, 67, son Iain, 45 and daughter Joanne, 40, “never gave up hope”.

He went on: “To be told you have 12 months to live and then to have completely healed 12 months down the line, we believe, is a miracle.”

His wife added: “We’ve just had the results back and the doctors can’t believe its success – they are astonished.”

Mr Brooks underwent the Foxfire treatment at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge over two days last November.

On the first day doctors mapped the blood flow over his liver, and the next day they injected the radioactive microspheres into the tumours’ blood supply.

Four months later he was told the liver tumours had disappeared, and he could commence chemotherapy to shrink the colon tumour. Seven weeks ago doctors removed them.

Mr Brooks said: “Obviously there is always the risk that the cancer can come back but I am now in remission and that is something that the doctors did not believe was possible.”

He is one of about 40 patients in Britain to receive the treatment as part of the trial, supported by Cancer Research UK’s Bobby Moore Fund and co-ordinated by Dr Ricky Sharma of the Gray Institute for Radiation Oncology and Biology at Oxford University.

It tests using radioembolisation plus chemotherapy versus chemotherapy alone, to see if the new method improves survival.

The trial only started 18 months ago and no official results have been reported yet. Dr Sharma hopes to recruit 500 suitable patients from across Britain.

Kate Law, Cancer Research UK’s director of clinical trials said: “Without clinical trials like Foxfire, we wouldn’t be able to improve techniques for cancer that are hard to treat.

“It’s a promising trial and we look forward to following its progress and seeing the results.”

Source: The Telegraph, By 

Reduced risk after radiotherapy

Radiotherapy for breast cancer does involve an increase in risk of heart disease, but for most women it is very small and greatly outweighed by the benefits of treatment.

The research, by scientists at the University of Oxford and in Scandinavia, involved over 2,000 women treated with radiotherapy in Denmark and Sweden. Their study was able to calculate for the first time how much radiotherapy for breast cancer increases the risk of heart disease.

The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, can now be used by doctors to help treat patients more appropriately.

It has long been known that radiotherapy reduces the risk of breast cancer returning for many women after it has been removed by surgery. And in October 2011, the same Oxford researchers completed a large study showing that radiotherapy after breast-conserving surgery halves the chances of the cancer coming back in the 10 years following diagnosis.

But during radiotherapy, the heart usually receives some incidental radiation exposure, particularly if the cancer is in the left breast or if the lymph nodes inside the chest are irradiated.

Until now, doctors have been uncertain as to whether modern radiotherapy still increased the risk of heart disease and, if it did, how big the risk was. This research has, for the first time, produced a dose-response relationship for ischaemic heart disease, which is the most common form of heart disease.

This means that doctors will be able to predict the size of the risk for each woman by calculating the amount of radiation that reaches the heart and assessing the woman’s other cardiac risk factors.

‘We carried out this work because doctors could not reliably estimate the risk of heart disease in women treated with radiotherapy for breast cancer,’ explained lead researcher Professor Sarah Darby from the Clinical Trial Service Unit (CTSU) at the University of Oxford. ‘Doctors can now estimate the risk and know that in most cases it will be very small so that they can reassure their patients. In addition, the few women for whom radiotherapy poses undue risk can now be identified, so that alternative techniques can be considered.’

Dr Carolyn Taylor, another study author from Oxford University’s CTSU, added: ‘Already our work is being used in cancer centres throughout the world and we’ve heard it’s making a difference to patients. It’s important to remember that for most women treated today the benefits of breast cancer radiotherapy far outweigh the risks.’

The amount of radiotherapy given is measured in Gray (Gy). For women with right-sided breast cancer, most radiotherapy regimens expose the heart to 1–2 Gy. For left-sided breast cancer, the amount that reaches the heart varies widely but is usually higher.

But this does not necessarily mean that a woman will have a substantial risk of heart disease if she has radiotherapy. For example, for a 50 year old woman who receives a heart dose of 3 Gy during radiotherapy, her risk of dying from ischaemic heart disease by the time she is 80 would increase from 1.9% to 2.4%.

There are a few women for whom radiotherapy would cause a substantial increase in the risk of heart disease if radiotherapy is given in the usual way. This includes women who are already at increased risk of heart disease (particularly those who have already had a heart attack) and women for whom the distance between the heart and the chest wall is very small. This research enables such women to be identified, so that alternative radiotherapy techniques can be considered.

The study was supported by funding from Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, and the Medical Research Council, and by grants from the European Commission and the Department of Health.

Kate Law, director of clinical research at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘Radiotherapy is a very effective treatment for breast cancer and has played a major role in improving survival for the disease to over 85 per cent. This research means that doctors will be able to reassure most women that the risk of heart disease from radiotherapy is small. Also, for the first time, women who would be at substantial risk if they had radiotherapy can be identified and alternative techniques considered.’

See original story here.