The CRUK Oxford Centre and the Oxford Biomedical Research Centre Multi-modal Cancer Therapies Theme supports researcher access to biological samples from consented patients with carefully curated patient data.
The infrastructure is flexible and allows for tailored sample collection to the project’s needs and focuses on collecting multiple samples at multiple timepoints from patients with digestive tract cancers and individuals with conditions at risk of developing these cancers.
All researchers in Oxford are eligible to apply for access to these samples. Below is more information on the samples collected and how to request access.
What is oesophageal cancer?
Oesophageal cancer is one of Cancer Research UK’s cancers of unmet need. The 5 year survival rate for this cancer is currently only 15% [CRUK], and is influenced by the fact that many oesophageal cancers are detected at an advanced stage when current treatments are less likely to be successful. This is highlighted by the fact that 55% of people diagnosed with the earliest stage of (stage 1) oesophageal cancer survive for 5 years or more whereas there are no 5 year survival statistics for people diagnosed with the latest stage (stage 4) because unfortunately many people do not live for long after diagnosis [CRUK]
There are two main types of oesophageal cancer: oesophageal adenocarcinoma (OAC) and oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). OAC occurs most frequently near the junction between the stomach and the oesophagus, and is more prevalent in Northern and Western Europe, Northern America and Oceania populations [Gut 2015]. OSCC is located higher in the oesophagus and is more common in South-Eastern and Central Asian populations.
Why would I want to study oesophageal cancer?
As a cancer of unmet need, there is significant opportunity to improve the survival of patients with this cancer both by detecting these cancers earlier and by developing new therapeutic strategies. Oxford is recognised as a local centre of clinical excellence for the treatment of oesophageal cancer. The management and treatment of all patients in Oxfordshire is performed at the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, and a specialist service is offered to those in the wider Thames Valley Cancer Network. Common research questions in the field that samples available can support include:
What is the cell of origin of oesophageal cancer?
What are the earliest molecular events that trigger lethal disease development?
What role does the immune system play in the development and therapeutic sensitivity of an oesophageal cancer patient?
Which patients are likely to benefit from neoadjuvant chemo/radio-therapy?
Can I identify novel therapeutic targets for oesophageal cancer?
What samples are available?
Specimen collections available through the biobank are collected from staging laparoscopy and resections, these can be matched with blood and clinical data. Cancer tissue in addition to control tissue from both the normal oesopghagus and stomach are taken and can be supplied fresh or in the form of formalin fixed paraffin embedded (FFPE) blocks.
Barrett’s oesophagus is a pre-cancerous condition associated with gastric reflux that increases the chance of developing oesophageal adenocarcinoma by 30-fold. Barrett’s oesophagus affects 1 in 50 people and is an example of metaplasia – the replacement of squamous epithelium (flat cells) with columnar epithelium (upright cells). Between 3-13% of people with Barrett’s oesophagus in the UK will develop oesophageal adenocarcinoma [CRUK].
Why would I want to study Barrett’s oesophagus?
One strategy for catching oesophageal cancers earlier is to regularly monitor patients with the pre-cancerous condition Barrett’s oesophagus, who are at higher risk of developing oesophageal cancer. Surveillance of this population is performed using endoscopy, observing the lining of the oesophagus and when necessary, taking punch biopsies for further analysis (this is how the samples in this biobank are obtained). However, endoscopies are invasive and costly procedures, are very operator-dependent, and sampling for biopsy may miss regions of progression to cancer. Since only 3-13% patients with Barrett’s oesophagus go on to develop cancer, the majority of people are being monitored “unnecessarily”. If more could be understood about the molecular and cellular changes occurring in the minority that develop cancer in this population, strategies to detect oesophageal cancer earlier or even prevent cancer development can be devised. Additionally, better risk stratification to identify both those at very low cancer risk that could be moved onto reduced screening/surveillance, and those at higher risk who would need more intense surveillance would enable resources to be deployed more effectively.
What samples are available?
Barrett’s Oesophagus tissue in addition to control tissue form both the normal oesopghagus and stomach are taken and can be supplied fresh or in the form of formalin fixed paraffin embedded (FFPE) blocks. Due to the rarity of progression of oesophageal cancer we have few matched Barrett’s – Oesophageal samples from the same patient available for use.
Colorectal cancer is neoplastic growth in the lower region of the gastrointestinal tract; more specifically it is limited to the rectum and colon. It is characterised by progression of benign growths in the lining of the colon and rectum (polyps) toward malignancy [Cancer.org]. The majority of colorectal cancers concern adenocarcinomas, originating in the mucus-secreting cells of the lower gastrointestinal tract [NHS]. Globally, colorectal cancer is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer, and ranks third in the mortality burden of all cancers. In the UK, this amounts to a number of 42,000 new cases yearly.
The 5-year survival for colorectal cancer is 64%, however, this is affected by the stage of progression. Notably, colorectal cancer is increasing in incidence in recent years, and has been strongly linked to lifestyle choices, with major risk factors including diet, obesity, tobacco and alcohol consumption.
Why would I want to study colorectal cancer?
The incidence of colorectal cancer research is through early diagnosis, intervention and improved understanding or intervention potentially of very high impact. The Oxford CRUK centre is well-placed to provide patient samples from a large biobank, and source more should any be required for large-scale studies.
What samples are available?
Cancer tissue in addition to control tissue from surrounding normal colon (and pre-cancerous polyps where available) can be supplied fresh or in the form of formalin fixed paraffin embedded (FFPE) blocks.
How do I gain access?
Should you wish to gain access to these samples, bloods, video and data, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org who can help facilitate and guide you through the process.
What is pancreatic cancer?
Pancreatic cancer originates in the pancreas. It is more common in the middle-aged population and the elderly, and has a prevalence of approximately 10,000 cases yearly in the UK. The majority of these cancers are adenocarcinomas with a second, less common type of pancreatic cancer being of neuroendocrine origin.
Pancreatic cancer is considered very aggressive and even in the early stages has a 5-year survival rate of 7-25%. A key positive prognostic factor is the possibility of surgical removal, however, only a small number of patients are eligible for this based on their condition and disease stage. Prognosis becomes progressively poorer in later stages, which is particularly problematic, as the early stages are commonly non-symptomatic. As a result patients are often initially diagnosed at a late stage.
Why would I want to study pancreatic cancer?
Pancreatic cancer is particularly aggressive and commonly leaves patients with a short life expectancy on diagnosis. As a result, research that targets early diagnosis, can improve prognostic outcomes, while there is requirement for improved intervention; all of which are potentially of very high impact to a substantial number of patients.
The aggressive nature, short survival and often advanced stage at diagnosis render sourcing of samples sub-optimal for many researchers. The Oxford CRUK centre is in a position to offer FFPE samples and, in collaboration with the Oxford University Hospital NHS Trust can mediate collection of fresh samples for research.
What samples are available?
Specimen collections available through the biobank are collected from resections, and can be supplied fresh or in the form of formalin fixed paraffin embedded (FFPE) blocks.