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.

 

 

Oxford to Pioneer Precision Cancer Medicine as a New Cancer Research UK Major Centre

The Cancer Research UK Oxford Centre was formed five years ago with the vision to harness the breadth and depth of research activity across the University and NHS Trust. There is now a rich and vibrant cancer research community that crosses traditional departmental and thematic boundaries. In recognition of the world-leading science taking place in Oxford, the innovative collaborations by Centre members, and the power of the cancer research network here, the Cancer Research UK Oxford Centre has been awarded Major Centre status by Cancer Research UK.

The Cancer Research UK Oxford Centre is one of the first to gain Major Centre status, receiving an extra £5 million in funding over the next two years. The Centre will continue to act as a vital research hub for the Cancer Research UK centre network, drawing together expertise, encouraging collaborative research, and bridging the gap between innovative laboratory work and benefits for patients.

The Major Centre strategy will focus on translating Oxford’s world-leading science across a broad range of disciplines, and ensure its translation into the clinic. Benefits for patients will be at the heart of its activities, drawing together expertise from different fields, including those not traditionally involved in cancer research. The Centre is ideally placed to deliver improved patient outcomes, and is driven by a bold and globally unique vision for how this will be achieved.

Priorities include the development of new immunotherapies and bringing together biologists, physicists, mathematicians and engineers to deliver new treatments. Investment will tie together advances in diagnostics, genomics, surgery, imaging, radiotherapy, and drug development to fulfil the Centre’s vision for precision medicine.

Professor Gillies McKenna, Director of the Cancer Research UK Oxford Centre, said: “We look forward to making the most of our role as a Major Centre and leader in cancer research in the UK. The new initiative will bring researchers and clinicians together in sustainable networks with longer term investment. This will allow us to combine the latest developments in radiotherapy and surgery with clinical trials of new drugs, providing the best evidence to guide cancer treatment and enhance cancer cure rates.”

Dr Iain Foulkes, Executive Director for Research Funding at Cancer Research UK, said: “The development of these Major Centres will accelerate national and international collaborations and improve treatments for patients. In each location we are developing cutting-edge approaches in how we treat the disease, be that the detection of individual tumour cells in the blood that allow us to monitor the disease or precision radiotherapy. With these Centres the UK goes from strength to strength in supporting the best cancer research in the world.”

The Cancer Research UK Manchester Centre, and Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre have also achieved Major Centre status. The Cancer Research UK Manchester Centre will transform cancer treatments by developing new techniques in personalised medicine. They will profile blood samples at diagnosis and throughout the patient’s journey looking for DNA and cancer cells that are released from the tumour. The information will then be used not only to pick the right drug for the right patient but also help personalise surgery and radiotherapy. The Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre will bring together the diverse strengths of Cambridge to create novel practical applications that will improve the detection and treatment of cancer. They will develop programmes in early detection, and integrative cancer medicine with the aim of developing new therapeutic approaches.