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Prof. Ellie Barnes comments on the 2020 Nobel Prize for Medicine

Prof Ellie Barnes comments on the recent Nobel Prize in Medicine, awarded to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice for their discovery of the Hepatitis C virus, a major global health problem and a cause of cancer

In 1989, Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice used what at the time were state-of-the-art technologies available to identify the virus that causes Hepatitis C infection. This ground-breaking discovery allowed for the development of blood tests to diagnose the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) and saved millions of lives over the last 40 years.

Testing for HCV has enabled the discovery of chronic infections that results from the Hepatitis C virus. Currently 71 million people are living with HCV, as there is no vaccine to prevent infection. HCV remains a silent disease that is often only diagnosed until symptoms of late-stage liver disease develop. In many cases, it goes undetected until severe complications occur, the most serious of which is hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). By this point, existing treatments are often less effective at clearing the infection.

Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common type of primary liver cancer, which is common in those who have had liver scarring due to Hepatitis B and C infections. 400,000 people globally die each year from HCV, with hepatocellular carcinoma continually on the rise. As a result, viral hepatitis is still one of the most serious global pandemics at large. Due to the lack of an effective HCV vaccine and early detection methods for the diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma, it is crucial to develop techniques that can aid its early detection and thereby increase the survival rate of cancer patients.

Prof Ellie Barnes at the Nuffield Department of Medicine, leads the DeLIVER study for the early detection of hepatocellular carcinoma that builds on the seminal work as recognised with this year’s Nobel Prize. On the topic of this year’s Nobel Prize winners, she says:

“Now, we need to repeat what those Nobel Prize winners did in 1989 for liver cancer. Like them, we can use today’s new advances in imaging and molecular technology to identify hepatocellular carcinoma at an earlier stage when it is still curable.

“The techniques to do this have advanced remarkably over the last 40 years and it should be possible, with carefully designed patient cohorts and inter-disciplinary effective co-working. By building on the work of Alter, Houghton and Rice, we can do it.”

The risk of liver cancer is increased by viral hepatitis infections, alcohol and obesity, causing the immune system to attack the liver leading to scarring and liver cirrhosis. Monitoring of people with these conditions can reduce mortality but current diagnostic tests for hepatocellular carcinoma fail to detect cancer in many cases.

The DeLIVER team is building on the work of Nobel Prize winners through the use of state-of-the-art multiparametric imaging, viral genetics, and liquid biopsy technologies (such as TAPS) to identify the early indicators of liver cancer by studying people at risk, such as those with Hepatitis C, over several years.

About DeLIVER

DeLIVER is a CRUK-funded programme led by Professor Ellie Barnes that aims to better understand the pre-cancerous changes in the liver and use this knowledge to inform new technologies for early HCC detection. The study will receive patient input from the British Liver Trust and the Hepatitis C Trust.

You can read more about it on the OxCODE website here.

First Huaxi SCU-Oxford Forum on Gastrointestinal Cancer

As part of the 110th Anniversary celebrations for the founding of Sichuan University (SCU), members of the Sichuan University (West China Hospital)-Oxford University Gastrointestinal Cancer Centre attended the first Centre Forum on Gastrointestinal Cancer at SCU. In attendance was an internationally known faculty of researchers who explored basic, translational and clinical aspects of colorectal, oesophageal and gastric cancer in a series of plenary lectures. See the full event agenda here.

The event built on the expertise of leading faculty members from Sichuan and Oxford University, complemented by international experts who are recognized leaders in their respective fields.

The lectures provided state of art updates on clinical management and insights into the biology of these tumour types and how this information can be exploited to identify new disease markers and therapeutic targets.

The forum attracted over 5,000 clinicians virtually from across China, representing all of the specialties involved in the management of GI cancer and basic scientists with an interest in translational and precision cancer medicine and is considered a great success.

Many thanks to the superb technical team who assured that all zoom delivered lectures were delivered with perfect clarity.

It gives the Centre great pleasure to announce that they will hold the second Huaxi  SCU-Oxford Forum on Gastrointestinal Cancer in Queens College Oxford in early September 2021, in partnership with collaborators from the University of Oslo, with whom they have formed the Colorectal Cancer Network.

Virtual Annual Cancer Symposium 2020

Registration is now open for the CRUK Oxford Centre’s 9th Annual Symposium. It will take place virtually on Wednesday 21st October 2020.

This year’s event will be different – we unfortunately cannot host our event as planned due to COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, we are not able to showcase a poster competition and abstracts will not be submitted.

However, we will be hosting a 1 day online event, which will include:

  • themed talks ranging from Non-Genetic Heterogeneity to Early Detection
  • New to Oxford session, featuring new Oxford cancer researchers and insights into where Oxford research may be going
  • a special talk by our Keynote Prof. zur Hausen

Programme:

Details of the full programme is currently being confirmed – please keep an eye on our Eventbrite page or our dedicated symposium page for further updates

Registration:

Registration is free. Sign up here

Please note that registration is only open to Centre members. (Please use this link to become a Centre member.)

 

If you have any questions regarding the Symposium please contact the Centrecancercentre@oncology.ox.ac.uk

CRUK Oxford Centre to Host International Symposium on Oesophageal Cancer

The Cancer Research UK Oxford Centre, Cancer Research UK, Cambridge Cancer Centre and Chinese Hospital Chinese Academy of Medical Science (CICAMS) have come together to host an International Symposium on Oesophageal Cancer.

The symposium is being co-organised by Professor Xin Lu, Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald and Professor Qimin Zhan. Speakers that cover the breadth and depth of Oesophageal Cancer Research will be in Oxford on June 6-7th for this innovative event.

We are pleased to confirm that registration is now open and details can be found here.

Why oesophageal cancer?

Investigating oesophageal cancer presents unique opportunities for advances on two fronts: addressing the substantial unmet clinical needs of this disease; and uncovering molecular mechanisms with broad implications for our understanding of tumorigenesis.

The oesophagus provides an unusual yet accessible tumour context. In the lower oesophagus, the squamous epithelium of the oesophagus meets the columnar epithelium of the stomach and oesophageal adenocarcinoma is often preceded by epithelial cellular changes in an inflammatory condition called Barrett’s oesophagus. This setting thus presents a unique model for studies of the fundamental principles of interactions among different epithelial cell types, how signalling and differentiation are disrupted in cancer development and the influence of immune responses and inflammation on cell fate. On a global scale oesophageal squamous cell cancer is a major cause of cancer related death with some very high incidence areas thus providing further opportunities for investigating the epidemiology and causation of this disease and potential avenues for treatment.

Oesophageal cancer research is thus an ideal forum to bring together cell biologists, geneticists, immunologists and clinicians.