Osteoporosis drug could benefit postmenopausal women with breast cancer

Drugs used to treat the bone condition osteoporosis could prevent 1000 breast cancer deaths a year, according to a large analysis of previous clinical trials.

The study published in The Lancet, showed that the drugs – called bisphosphonates – reduced the risk of breast cancer coming back, as well as significantly reducing the risk of death, in women diagnosed after their menopause with early-stage breast cancer.

Breast cancers most commonly spread to the bone, and treatment with bisphosphonates alters the bone tissue. This potentially makes the bone a more challenging environment for rogue cancer cells to survive in, reducing the risk of the cancer coming back.

To test this, the Early Breast Cancer Trialists’ Collaborative Group (EBCTCG) set up by researchers at the Nuffield Department of Population Health,University of Oxford, alongside collaborators from Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust and many other institutes, combined data from 18,766 women from 26 clinical trials, comparing women who took bisphosphonates for between two and five years, with those who had no bisphosphonates.

Postmenopausal women on bisphosphonates saw a 28 per cent reduction in the chances of their cancer coming back. Bisphosphonates also reduced the risk of dying from the disease during the first 10 years after diagnosis by 18 per cent.

Professor Robert Coleman, who led the study, said that the results show that giving postmenopausal women bisphosphonates after surgery could “prevent around a quarter of bone recurrences and one in six of all breast cancer deaths in the first decade of treatment”.

Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, Professor Peter Johnson, said that while findings had the potential to save many lives, further in-depth research will be needed.

“This large analysis suggests that, if post-menopausal women with early breast cancer were given bisphosphonates after surgery, it could stop cancer spreading to their bones and save around 1,000 lives a year,” he said.

“Many women already get bisphosphonates to protect against bone disease, but before doctors give this drug to all post-menopausal women at high-risk of breast cancer, more thorough clinical trials are needed,” he added.

A second study by the EBCTCG, also published in The Lancet, looked at the effectiveness of different hormone therapies for breast cancer.

It’s results provide further support for recommendations by NICE that hormone therapies called aromatase inhibitors should be offered to women with early-stage oestrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer, over an older hormone therapy called tamoxifen.

Researchers found that women with ER-positive breast cancer taking aromatase inhibitors for five years had a 40 per cent lower risk of dying within 10 years of starting treatment, compared to those who didn’t take hormone therapy.

This compared to a 30 per cent lower risk following five years of treatment with tamoxifen.

Aromatase inhibitors work by preventing the body from producing oestrogen, and are taken by postmenopausal women with ER-positive breast cancer. They have previously been shown to be more effective than tamoxifen in reducing the chances of cancer coming back, but the new study is the first to show a greater reduction in death rates.

The study looked at data from 31,920 women across nine international clinical trials, with each study including women who had been treated with aromatase inhibitors or tamoxifen at various times during the study.

Lead author Professor Mitch Dowsett, from The Royal Marsden and The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said the global research effort confirmed that aromatase treatment provided “significantly greater protection than that offered by tamoxifen”.

But he cautioned that aromatase therapy was not without its side-effects.

“Aromatase inhibitor treatment is not free of side-effects, and it’s important to ensure that women with significant side-effects are supported to try to continue to take treatment and fully benefit from it,” he said.

The power of such long-term analyses was welcomed by Professor Paul Workman, Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, who said they were crucial for bringing the best treatments to patients.

“It tends to be the discovery of new treatments that grabs the headlines, but it is just as important to maximise the benefit patients get from existing treatments, through major, practice-changing studies like this,” he said.

Both studies were funded by Cancer Research UK and the Medical Research Council.



  • Early Breast Cancer Trialists’ Collaborative Group: Adjuvant bisphosphonate treatment in early breast cancer: meta-analyses of individual patient data from randomised trials. Lancet (2015) DOI:10.1016/ S0140-6736(15)60908-4
  • Early Breast Cancer Trialists’ Collaborative Group: Aromatase inhibitors versus tamoxifen in early breast cancer: patient-level meta-analysis of the randomised trials. Lancet (2015) DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(15)61074-1

Source: Cancer Research UK in collaboration with the Press Association 


Genetic expression ‘predicts lung cancer survival’

A study led by Oxford University researchers and colleagues at the National Cancer Institute, Milan, Italy has shed light on a key puzzle thrown up in some lung cancer screening programmes.

Italian researchers have screened more than 5000 heavy smokers over the last fifteen years, using CT scans to detect lung cancer early. While the proactive CT screening of smokers has been good at discovering developing cancer tumours, finding them more frequently than expected, the programmes have not had a clear effect on reducing deaths from cancer. The research team decided to look at whether the way different genes were expressed in various tumours could account for why some people survived and others did not, despite the early detection by the screening program.

Lead researcher Dr Jiangting Hu said: ‘If you are doing well at finding tumours, you would expect to be reducing deaths by treating people earlier. But there was no clear link between this early detection and survival rates. We hypothesised that the screening programmes were mostly finding indolent – slow-growing – tumours. These indolent tumours were removed, but there were also aggressive, fast-growing, tumours developing. These fast-growing tumours do get found by screening but later as they develop and, even if detected very early, already have a very aggressive phenotype.

The researchers looked at the gene expression pattern of tumours that had been detected by CT scans and compared the differences between the pattern detected at baseline and the pattern detected later on. Different expression of some genes can lead similar tumours to behave in different ways. The genetic expression in the tumours was compared with other information about the cancer cases.

The team found 239 genes whose expression was related to cancer survival rates.

Professor of Tumour Pathology and CRUK Oxford Centre Member Francesco Pezzella said:The striking thing was that the 239-gene signature divided the patients into two groups that clearly predicted disease-free survival and also divided the indolent tumours detected at baseline from the tumours which were found later on during the screening program, regardless of tumour stage or size, and any histopathology findings from studying the tissue. We also found that the genetic expression in healthy cells differed between those two groups of people. Furthermore the same signature could divide indolent from very aggressive tumours in patients as part of normal clinical practice.

‘The results confirmed that there is a difference between indolent and aggressive tumours, which could be used to identify those with more dangerous tumours for personalised care. They also show that we could profile healthy tissue to identify high and low risk groups. A final remarkable finding is that the team led by Ugo Pastorino and Gabriella Sozzi in italy has discovered that the same genetic differences can be seen with a blood test in the same patients.

‘The next step will be finding shorter gene signatures, enabling us to develop more personalised diagnosis to facilitate better targeted cancer treatment.’

The paper, Gene Signatures Stratify Computed Tomography Screening Detected Lung Cancer in High-risk Populations, is published in EBioMedicine.


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.


Former Oxford Biochemistry student wins top CRUK prize

Anca Farcas, former DPhil student with Rob Klose, is the joint winner of CRUK’s 2014 Pontecorvo Prize.

The prize is awarded to the CRUK-funded student who has produced the best PhD thesis and made the most outstanding contribution to scientific knowledge in their field of research for that year. The student is also expected to have shown that they have made a strong original contribution to the direction of the research.

Anca submitted her DPhil, ‘KDM2B links recognition of CpG islands to polycomb domain formation in vivo‘, in January 2014 and passed her viva voce in March 2014 without any corrections.

Her studies shed light on how mammals use chromatin-based processes to lay down the very earliest transcriptional patterns for development. With her colleagues, she provided evidence for a link between the polycomb proteins, a highly conserved family of proteins essential for gene silencing, and recognition of the characteristic non-methylated regions of DNA in mammalian genomes known as CpG islands.

The work, published in the first issue of eLife, was followed by another paper in Cell two years later where Anca and postdoc Neil Blackledge revealed a new and unexpected mechanism for polycomb group protein targeting. Anca stayed on in Rob Klose’s lab until November 2014 to finish some further exciting work that is being continued by others in the lab.

Anca is now at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried, working in the lab of Juerg Mueller. She will be combining structural biology with functional tests based on genetic approaches in Drosophila to understand the mechanisms by which Polycomb repressive complex 1 (PRC1) carries out its repressive function.

Anca farcas

Anca is honoured to be the recipient of this prestigious prize, calling it ‘a great ending to four years of hard work‘.

She adds: ‘I had a fantastic DPhil experience working in the group of Rob Klose. I was surrounded by good friends and great scientists from whom I benefited and learnt about how to overcome the difficulties inherent to a DPhil. Importantly, my DPhil work wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support from CRUK.’

The panel of judges commended Anca’s elegant studies that have collectively helped to reshape our understanding of how the polycomb chromatin modifying system is targeted to defined sites in the genome, and was very impressed by her productivity.

By Jane Itzhaki, Department of Biochemistry

Flame of Hope Awards 2015

The Cancer Research UK annual national Flame of Hope Awards celebrate their most outstanding volunteers, and those who have carried out excellent work in research engagement. Since 2003 they have presented over 600 Flame of Hope awards to thank the committed individuals who give their time and energy to help beat cancer sooner.

The CRUK Oxford Centre is pleased to announce that Dr Anne Kiltie, Clinical Group Leader at the CRUK / MRC Oxford Institute for Radiation Oncology and CRUK Oxford Centre member, was awarded the 2015 Research Engagement Award. Anne was part of the team behind the Reverse the Odds app, she explained the role the game plays in her research: “The app lets members of the public score our immunohistochemistry images for us. The public have already looked at one protein and we are about to compare the public’s scores with our ‘expert scores’ to see how well they match”. Find out more about the app here.

There was further recognition for the great work Oxfordshire residents are doing at the awards. Jeannette Milligan, a volunteer at the Abingdon CRUK charity shop, received a special commendation in the category Shop Volunteer of the Year.

If you’d like to find out more about volunteer and research engagement opportunities within the CRUK Oxford Centre then please contact oxfordcentre@cancer.org.uk

Discovery could improve radiotherapy for wide range of cancers

Cancer Research UK scientists have discovered how giving a class of drugs called AKT inhibitors in combination with radiotherapy might boost its effectiveness across a wide range of cancers, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation today.

Tumours often grow so quickly that some of the cells do not have access to the body’s blood supply, causing them to become oxygen-starved. This rapid growth usually sends signals to the cells to die, but in cancers with faults in a gene called p53 – present in at least half of all cancers – this signal is blocked meaning the cells carry on growing.

In this study, the researchers found that six genes that help protect the body against cancer were less active in oxygen-starved cancer cells when p53 was also faulty.

In the absence of two of these genes – PHLDA3 and INPP5D – a gene called AKT becomes permanently switched on preventing the cells from dying despite being oxygen-starved.

When drugs designed to block AKT were given to mice with tumours and lab-grown cancer cells lacking p53, the radiotherapy killed more tumour cells.

Importantly, lower activity in these genes was also linked to poorer survival in patients with a variety of different cancers. This suggests that adding AKT inhibitors to radiotherapy could be an effective way to treat many cancers.

Study leader Dr Ester Hammond, a Cancer Research UK scientist and CRUK Oxford Centre member, said: “This exciting discovery sheds light on the role of oxygen-starvation in cancer development and suggests that drugs already being trialled in cancer patients could potentially boost the effectiveness of radiotherapy across a range of cancers. We hope that this important piece of the jigsaw will support ongoing efforts to develop drugs that enhance radiotherapy, so that even more patients can benefit from this cornerstone of cancer treatment.

Eleanor Barrie, Cancer Research UK’s senior science information manager, said: “Advances in how we give radiotherapy and use it in combination with other treatments have the potential to improve survival for thousands of cancer patients. More than half of all cancer patients receive radiotherapy as part of their treatment, so anything that can be done to improve its effectiveness is potentially great news for patients.”

Men with high oestrogren levels could be at greater risk of breast cancer

Men with naturally high levels of the female hormone oestrogen may have a greater risk of developing breast cancer, according to research by an international collaboration including Cancer Research UK published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

This is the first time a link between oestrogen levels in the blood and male breast cancer has been identified, despite its connection to breast, womb and ovarian cancers in women.

Men with the highest levels of oestrogen were two and a half times more likely to develop breast cancer than men with the lowest levels of the hormone. Low levels were classified as less than 52.23 picomols of oestrogen per litre of blood (pmol/L), and high levels were more than 86.76pmol/L.

Male breast cancer is very rare with one man in every 100,000 diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK. Around 350 male cases are diagnosed each year in the UK compared with nearly 50,000 cases of breast cancer in women.

The research at the National Cancer Institute in the United States was part of an international collaboration between Cancer Research UK, the National Cancer Institute and many other vital funders.

The aim was to study a large international pool of men with breast cancer. The research compared oestrogen levels in 101 men who went on to develop breast cancer with 217 healthy men.

Mark Cross, 46, a police officer from Cambridgeshire, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. He had a mastectomy and then follow-up treatment of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. His treatment ended in September 2010. He said: “The police sometimes get a bit of a reputation for being macho but I had great support from everyone within the Metropolitan police service. Not many people know that men get breast cancer too and it was a complete surprise to be diagnosed. My advice to all men is if you develop a lump on your chest – or anywhere else on your body – get it checked by your doctor as soon as possible. I hope my experience will raise awareness for other men.”

Study author Professor Tim Key, Cancer Research UK’s hormone and nutrition expert at the University of Oxford, said: “We’ve shown for the first time that just like some forms of the cancer in women, oestrogen has a big role to play in male breast cancer. So now the challenge is to find out exactly what this hormone is doing to trigger this rare form of the disease in men, and why some men have higher levels of oestrogen in their blood. Our discovery is a crucial step forward in understanding the factors behind male breast cancer.”

The symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of male breast cancer are very similar to breast cancer in women. The main risk of developing the disease in men is age and almost eight in 10 cases are diagnosed in those aged 60 and older.

Dr Julie Sharp, head of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: “Breast cancer in men isn’t discussed very often, so a diagnosis can be a big shock for the small group of men who develop the disease.

“Some of the oestrogen variation in men will simply be natural, but for others there may be a link to being overweight. Fat cells in the body are thought to drive up the body’s level of this hormone in men and women, so this is another good reason to try and keep a healthy weight.

“This early research is crucial in understanding why these men get breast cancer – so that one day we can treat it more effectively.”

Meet Mina Bekheet & Oxford Biotech

The latest Medical Science divisional e-newsletter has been released and this innovation-focused issue features an interview with Mina Bekheet, a 2nd year DPhil student in the Department of Oncology and co-founder and President of Oxford Biotech (OB), a student-led biotech communication and transfer platform. OB aims to get academia, industry and government to talk to each other and share ideas and in turn “translate innovative science into disruptive business”. Find out how a small group of multi-national young DPhil students have managed to establish a growing and well-connected enterprise and how they ditch their lab coats at the end of the day and replace them with business suits and evenings spent networking with students, academics, senior managers and CEOs of big pharma, Biotech, SMEs, IP and investment firms, and government officials!

What’s behind Oxford Biotech?

Strong research universities, like Oxford, are full of skilled students and staff, so there’s a lot of latent potential here. We want to work with these people, show them how to get started in business and provide support for new biotech companies.

We are currently preparing to run large-scale competitions and intakes, where, in the future, top-notch ideas enter our Innovation Centres. Our plan is to partner with winning teams and provide them with free lab and office space and mentoring from industry, research and venture capital professionals. The plan involves operating four seed funds for start-ups: Small Molecules; Rare Diseases & Orphan Drugs; Diagnostics & Novel Health Technologies; Genomics & Digital Health.
We are also establishing ourselves as a biotech communication platform by running events and teaching bio-entrepreneurship with high profile university and industry professionals, and placing PhD students and postdocs in industry consulting projects. These activities aim to bridge the gap between academia, industry and government.
One of the standout features of OB is that postgraduate students are leading all of its divisions: Networking, Editorial, Education and Consulting, as well as Business Development and associated investment.

Where did the idea for Oxford Biotech come from? Did you sense a gap in the market?

There are definitely gaps at different levels, whether from a translational perspective wherein only a few ideas are taken from the lab into the clinic; from an economical perspective where limited funding and support is available for early-stage start-ups and from a cultural and organisational perspective, where there’s increasing pressure on students to produce to publish, leaving them with limited space to explore potential commercial use of their ideas.

Europe’s infrastructure to support the student entrepreneurs is still fragmented, which simply leads students to act on their own. While this may reflect reality in the business world it also means that we lose talent and good ideas if students don’t have the support they need.
A recent study by a faculty in the USA estimated that all active companies worldwide formed by faculty’s graduates exceeded $2 trillion a year – which is more than the GDP of all but the 10 largest nations. There is definitely an opportunity for us here!

OB leadership team and project managers are all students. What’s you’re thinking behind such a student led group?

University-age entrepreneurs are quite adaptable, willing to innovate and be elastic in their approach; they are strong-willed but open-minded, and most importantly, they have the relevant hands-on technical insight as part of their research. It has allowed us to establish a team that tolerates failure, accepts calculated risks and acknowledges mistakes and is willing to learn from them and become stronger.

Putting the team together has been challenging, as our research places significant demands on our time, which has necessitated a very professional approach to the work from all of us.
The team have to counter balance the risk of jumping out of the mainstream and commit to some sleepless nights, whilst also delivering their best academically and for OB. We are trying to build an environment where this extra effort is tempting and rewarding. This culture is not exclusive for the team; we are radiating it upon everyone within our network, and will extend to those entrepreneurs who we collaborate with.

What’s the plan when you all graduate?

I like to think about OB as the prequalifying round, where the winners will join the premier league. OB will always be led by students running all the complimentary activities, and those who excel in OB later on, will join the more advanced level through “OB ventures” after graduation.

You’re also studying a DPhil right now, how do manage to juggle both OB and your studies? What are the potential benefits to your studies/research from being involved in OB?

No holidays, less social life, lunch on the move, few hours of rest and sleep, but much more rewarding momentum in life.
The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand. I’m convinced that what really makes successful entrepreneurs is pure persistence.
OB adds an entire new dimension to the understanding of my research, which is focused on Personalised Cancer Therapy. I’m particularly interested in developing a detailed understanding of the key epigenetic pathways that regulate tumour cell death, and thereafter use this knowledge to devise strategies for delivering more effective cancer treatments within an applied clinical setting. I’m always thinking about how each experiment will fit within the route of developing a final clinical product. I also have to say that the connections I make through OB helps a lot with my daily lab work.

Why innovation? What got you interested?

It’s simply part of investigating this question of how good ideas arise, a problem I think all of us are fundamentally interested in. We want to come up with superior ideas and be more innovative and we want our environments to be more creative.
There is no certain single formula for finding the next big thing, yet we think our simple two-step approach can help. Firstly, networking, communication, and establishing a dialogue where all players talk the same language is really important. These informal situations are where most good ideas form. Secondly, there’s a need to identify and select the most lucrative ideas at their very conception – “the scientific seed of innovation” as some OB team members like to call it. This model of start-up identification is designed to boost commercial output that matches our world-leading science output.

What does innovation mean to you?

Humans are innovative by default; we just have different perceptions about innovation. For me, innovation has to be disruptive, a process that brings together various novel ideas in a way that they have an impact on society, creating high value for both stakeholders and end-users. Our ability to promote our quality of life for centuries to come is fundamental concern, innovation is the answer.

What is your vision behind OB?

Darwinian innovation within a well-defined position in the ecosystem. Our aim is to start by investigating disciplines through which pioneering new companies can provide extraordinary returns, new technologies that can solve universal problems and renovate global markets in health and life sciences. Sets of opportunities that are intact are created thereafter. We then work together to pinpoint breakthrough technologies in these intersections. The result is high-impact start-ups that are of unprecedented quality.

What is your biggest success to date & what have you learned from that? What was your biggest mistake & what did you learn from that failure?

Putting OB’s current central team together. I have found that monetary rewards don’t lead to better performance when it involves creative conceptual thinking. It’s more important to provide sovereignty and purpose if you want to create an outstanding team. I am simply lucky to be working with each and every one of them.
My biggest mistake is that I didn’t start OB earlier. Maybe this was because there was social pressure to follow the traditional path, or maybe because I simply didn’t think that I was ready yet, or maybe I just wasn’t in the right place at the right time with the right people.
So I advise, try or you’ll regret it. Start as soon as you have an idea, and even if it doesn’t work out, you will have learnt something. The critical element is standing up and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow, not today, but now. The true entrepreneur is a do-er, not a dreamer.
In real life, no one has a hassle-free path to success. Failure is part of that path. And those who fail the most seem to experience the most simply because they attempted the most. If we are not failing, we are not trying.

What has surprised you the most since you have started OB?

People have been very generous giving us advice, sparing so much effort and time, and expecting nothing in return, but really believing in what we are doing. Personally, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have received advice and counsel from people considered the best in their field. Hats off also to the university, MSD, MPLS, SBS, ISIS Innovation, academics, administrators, Business Development teams and industry professionals – so many that I cannot name each.

Where do you see OB in the future?

The App store of Biotech Startups, only better!
Translating Innovative Science into Disruptive Business. Thinking really big and re-shaping the ecosystem and industry around us, building the next generation of high-impact start-ups and a novel generation of bio-entrepreneurs.

What are OB’s near future activities?

Quite a lot actually. To name a few, we have started operating new divisions in London, Cambridge, Nottingham and Edinburgh this week, expanding into Asia & Europe this Summer, running our BioStars business plan competition in collaboration with the Structural Genomics Consortium later this year, first intake of start ups Q2 2016, running OB’s 360° start-up building vehicle in collaboration with Said Business School in parallel. That is in addition to our outstanding regular activities, an Ebola Summit in July, CRISPR conference in August, NGS conference in October, and a Consulting workshop in September! So many other initiatives are still in the pipeline.

What is your future challenge?

Entrepreneurs tend to change the way we think about what is conceivable, they have a good concept of how life can be improved, for all of us, even when the wave is high. This, I can claim, is even more influential upon our lives from the biotech and life science perspective.
The real challenge remains; what opportunities will we go after, how and why? We know ourselves; we know that the risk is not the actual reward. The rewards are changing people’s lives, creating jobs, driving innovations, and making a better world. I love stories, watching innovations from conception until completion. We are here to do this.


The original interview can be seen here. Find out more about Oxford Biotech here.

Trial of Radioactive Glass Particles to Tackle Cancer

Cancer treatment with radioactive glass microspheres is to be trialled for the first time in the UK at Oxford’s Churchill Hospital.

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust is seeking volunteer patients as part of the global EPOCH clinical trial of selective internal radiotherapy for bowel cancer that has spread to the liver and has become resistant to chemotherapy.

The EPOCH trial will investigate the use of tiny glass microspheres in patients with liver metastasis from colorectal cancer whose cancer has progressed after first line drug therapy. At least 20 patients will take part in the Oxford trial, to start this month.

The glass microspheres are 20-30 micrometres in diameter, about a third of the width of a human hair and contain the radioactive isotope, yttrium-90.

Using a thin flexible catheter inserted via the groin, the microspheres are delivered directly into tumours in the liver through the tumour’s own blood vessels. The microspheres become permanently lodged in the tumour’s small blood vessels.

Because the procedure delivers the treatment directly to the liver tumours, the radiotherapy destroys tumour cells with minimal impact to the surrounding healthy liver tissue.

The radioactive microspheres continue to deliver radiotherapy for weeks after the treatment.

The clinical trial will compare the new radiotherapy treatment combined with standard drug therapy (chemotherapy) to standard drug therapy alone.

Patients eligible to participate in the clinical trial have metastatic bowel cancer (also called “colorectal cancer”) with spread to the liver, when the cancer has progressed despite chemotherapy.

Professor Ricky Sharma, Honorary Consultant in Clinical Oncology at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust and CRUK Oxford Centre Member, said: “We are delighted that patients in Oxford will have the chance to participate in this clinical trial.

“It offers a new radiotherapy treatment option to patients with colorectal cancer that has spread to the liver when chemotherapy has not worked.

“In Oxford, we have considerable experience of this new, minimally invasive approach to treating cancer.

“We are very excited to be the first centre in the UK to offer this clinical trial to patients who meet the eligibility criteria.

“Within the past month, two patients have volunteered to participate and they have both been enrolled.”

Common side effects of this therapy include mild to moderate fatigue, the possibility of some pain immediately after the procedure and the possibility of mild nausea.

Doctors sometimes describe these symptoms as similar to those of mild flu. Some patients experience some loss of appetite and temporary changes in several blood tests. This therapy is already approved in the European Union for the treatment of certain types of liver cancer.

The sponsoring partner for this clinical trial is Biocompatibles UK Ltd, a BTG group company.

For further information about this clinical trial or how to participate in this clinical trial, please contact Professor Ricky Sharma, Consultant in Clinical Oncology, Churchill Hospital, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, OX3 7LJ, telephone number 01865 235209.

Ester Hammond Recieves 2015 Michael Fry Research Award

CRUK Oxford Centre is pleased to announce that Dr Ester Hammond is the recipient of the 2015 Michael Fry Research Award from the Radiation Research Society (RRS).  

The Michael Fry Research Award was formerly known as the Radiation Research Award. It was established to recognise junior scientists who have made extraordinary contributions to the field of radiation research.

Previous recipients can be seen  online here.

Ester will receive the award at the RRS 61st Annual Meeting in September. The annual meeting provides researchers in all areas of radiation research the opportunity to discuss new and important findings, while enriching the multidisciplinary objectives of the RRS.