Cancer Research at Bath (CRAB)

Newest developments in cancer research in and around Bath

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Novel drug design for prostate cancer

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Approximately 1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer in their lifetimes in the UK. Prostate cancer presents in men with a family history and has an increased risk after the age of 55. At the early stages, the main treatment is hormone therapy to deprive the tumor of testosterone. After treatment, there is a remarkable 85% survival rate after 5 years. There is however, a lack of effective treatments for late stage and metastatic cancer, and the prognosis for these patients is incredibly low.

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Mike Kenny is a 3rd year PhD student in the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology who kindly agreed to chat to us about the compound he has been working on. He completed his undergraduate degree in Chemistry at the University of Leicester. He then undertook a summer placement at the University of Liverpool where he participated in drug design for tuberculosis. Upon his return to Leicester for his final year, he then went on to focus on breast cancer drugs. These experiences led to his decision to join Prof. Michael Threadgill and his team in Bath to design a novel pro-drug to be used for advanced prostate cancer therapy.  According to Mike, this program was an opportunity to use his knowledge of synthetic chemistry to give the compound he designed a purpose.

Mike’s research is fully funded by Prostate Cancer UK. He has synthesized an analogous compound to Duocarmycin SA which was initially isolated from the bacterium Streptomyces. The compound or ‘Pro-drug’ is made up of several components. One component directs the compound to the prostate, where another then releases the active drug which then enters the cancer cells and binds onto DNA to effectively kill the cells. Mike highlighted the need for new drugs in the market, as the main treatments for late stages are largely ineffective and have highly toxic effects. He further emphasized the trickiness of designing such a compound and touched upon the limitations of getting any drug into the clinic, as appropriate toxicology tests must first be done before further steps are taken.

Chatting to a young scientist about exciting new treatments for advanced prostate cancer put into perspective both the demand of new potent drugs as well as the complexity of getting them from the lab to the clinic. Mike’s work is certainly something to follow in the near future!

 

Meet the new student blogging team

  

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 Left to Right: Ophélie Martinot, Eleni Costa, Luke Pattison and Megan Cassidy

Megan Cassidy

I’m Megan, a final year Biology student with an interest in cancer research, specifically the molecular aspects of disease development. My recent placement year in Cambridge focused on gene mutations that result in targeted therapy resistance. This affirmed to me that this research is just as exciting and challenging as I expected. I now hope to continue my cancer studies with a PhD but in the meantime, I look forward to sharing exciting research updates with you all!

Ophélie Martinot

I’m Ophélie, a final year Biochemistry student. I have been interested in cancer research since my first year at university which led me to undertake a placement in St Jude Children’s Research Hospital last year. There, I studied the role of a transcription factor in the metastasis of a mouse model of breast cancer. My interest is focused on current advances in treatment strategies specifically in immune-oncology where our immune system is manipulated to kill cancer cells. After I graduate I plan on studying medicine.

Eleni Costa

I’m Eleni and as a final year Biochemistry student, my interest in cancer came about during my placement at the Peninsula School of Medicine, where I became involved in the investigation of novel genes implicated in brain tumor initiation. There, I became intrigued by the molecular aspects of developing new and targeted cancer therapies. Next year, I will be attending the MSc Drug Discovery and Development course at UCL which will allow me to further pursue a career in cancer research and therapeutics.

Luke Pattison

I’m Luke, a final year Molecular and Cellular Biology student. Having spent my placement year in Melbourne, where I was investigating novel methods of targeting G protein-coupled receptors, I’ve become very interested in cell signalling and drug development. I’m looking forward to learning about the work being done at our university to tackle cancer and sharing this with you!

 

GW4 Cancer Research Consortium (GW4CANCER)

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Today CR@B is welcoming our colleagues from across the South West (GW4 universities) for the first GW4CANCER workshop.

The two-day meeting will enable experts in a range of disciplines to examine the  global challenges in cancer research and to combine our efforts in cancer research to find cures that can be implemented in a future of personalised medicine in cancer treatment.

Cancer is a large group of diseases with different causes and outcomes and the future for treatment seems to heading in a direction of personalised medicine because, even with the same type of cancer, the genetic make-up of each patient may have a different influence on their response to treatment. Personalised medicine takes into account the patient’s unique genetic background as well as the genetic profiles of the tumour in order to predict the response to cancer treatments.

Since it is becoming increasingly difficult (and expensive) for one research group to address the complexity of cancer a concerted collaboration of expertise and pooling of resources will enhance our efforts and allow us to address the challenging cancer questions.

Within the GW4 universities there is already substantial research effort into the environmental and lifestyles causes of cancer, the contribution of genetics, biochemistry and cell biological processes to the causes of a wide range of cancers, as well as research into the prevention and pharmaceutical intervention in cancer.

GW4CANCER also aims to establish a cross-centre non-clinical doctoral training programme in cancer research to train the next generation of cancer scientists.

At CR@B we’re looking forward to hosting our GW4 Cancer Research and what should be a stimulating and inspiring couple of days.

 

Carcinogenic Meat

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Recently, the prospect that eating red or processed meat can increase your risk of cancer has been highly talked about in the media. Lean red meat is not only delicious, but also an important source of iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and protein. So how can something seemingly so harmless inflict such a serious disease? It does so via chemicals known as “N-nitroso compounds” that are formed upon digestion of these meats, which go on to damage the cells that line the bowel. Other likely factors include the high fat content in meat, as well as the fact that if meat takes up a large proportion of your diet- you tend to miss out on cancer protective foods, like fruit and vegetables and wholegrain cereals.

It is important to be aware of what kinds of meat are associated with this risk. Red meat includes beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton and goat; whilst processed meat refers to meat that has been treated in some manner e.g. smoking, curing, or other processes that may be used to enhance flavor or improved preservation. No link has been shown between eating poultry and developing cancer, whilst some studies have even shown that eating fish can actually reduce the risk of bowel, prostate and breast cancers!

Which Meats Are Risky?

Which Meats Are Risky?

Secondly, this risk must be put into perspective. Compared to the well-known risk factor of smoking (see Ellie's last post) only 3% of cancers can be ascribed to red or processed meat compared to 20% caused by tobacco.  Another way of looking at this is by examining the impact of these risk factors on the cancers with which they are most closely linked. Where tobacco is responsible for 86% of all lung cancers, red or processed meat causes 21% of bowel cancer cases. It's all relative- but is this a risk you’re willing to take?

tabacco vs meat

Risk of Tobacco vs Meat

According to the Scientific Advisory Commission on Nutrition, there’s no need to cut meat out altogether- but we should eat no more than 70g of red/processed meat per day. That’s equal to less than 3 slices of bacon.

Recommended Daily Meat Intake

Recommended Daily Meat Intake

To many, this doesn’t sound like much of an allowance… but it's actually much easier to achieve than you might think. Start by eating smaller portions of meat and bulking out your meal with extra vegetables, beans and pulses. You can also swap your red meat filling in your burger/sandwich for chicken or fish. Another great way would be to take part in the global ‘Meatless Mondays’ movement. With time, I think many people would be surprised at how easy this is to cut meat out completely, and may want to consider its carcinogenic status yet another one of the many reasons to go vegetarian. Along with benefiting your long-term health, you would also be contributing to solving many of the environmental issues that face our planet (livestock production accounts for over 18% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions... which is more than emissions both transport and power generation!), as well as no longer funding an industry that causes so much animal suffering.

The carcinogenic status of meat has arisen from epidemiological studies that found associations between diets high in these meats and the incidence of certain types of cancer- in particular colorectal and bowel cancer. Epidemiological studies are those which analyse the patterns, causes and effects of health and disease in defined populations. Cancer Research at Bath (CR@B) are part of a research collaboration that aims to investigate the variation in European cancer survival rates, and why Britain has such low survival rates compared with the rest of the continent. One of their recent projects looked at the factors affecting GP’s decision to refer patients for further investigation. It is thought that our low survival rates are mainly due to a delay in diagnosis, and hence it is hoped that by pin-pointing and correcting the reason why, we can save more lives.

 

13th CR@B symposium

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On the 27th of April 2016, CR@B held its 13th symposium at the University of Bath. A variety of academics, healthcare professionals and students gathered to enjoy talks from speakers from all ends of research.

The programme can be found here.

The first speaker of the evening was Dr Jenny Hatchard of the Department for Health at the University. Dr Hatchard is part of the Tobacco Control Research Group, who investigate and evaluate the impact of public health policy, investment and trade liberalisation with regard to health related to tobacco. Standardised plain packaging of tobacco, soon to become compulsory in the United Kingdom, is of great interest and debate in the aim of preventing people starting smoking. Of course, this is due to the undeniable link between smoking and cancer and the huge number of preventable deaths every year.

Professor Linda Bauld, of the University of Stirling, continued this theme of smoking and cancer. Speaking on behalf of Cancer Research UK, Professor Bauld detailed how it is not just lung cancer that is strongly linked to smoking; smokers are at great risk of developing many other cancers. Improving public perception of the risks involved in not just smoking, but also drinking alcohol and obesity, has been shown to increase people's likelihood of taking action to improve their lifestyle and support legislation to curb this risk.

The next speaker was Sophia Sarpaki, a PhD student under the supervision of Dr Sofia Pascu of the Department of Chemistry and Dr Ian Eggleston of the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. Her research involves the design and synthesis of imaging and inhibitory agents that are selective for hypoxic tissue, such as that found in tumours.

After a short break and poster session, another PhD student delivered a talk on their research. Lauren Heathcote, of the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford linked with the Centre for Pain Research at the University of Bath, is currently investigating a variety of influences on pain in children and adolescents, particularly those who have or have previously had cancer. It is known that different people experience pain differently, and it is also possible to predict how a person will respond to the same pain as another person, based on many criteria such as emotion. This research hopes to identify people who are likely to experience more pain and be able to address this appropriately.

The final speaker of the evening was Dr Sharath Gangadhara, whose research focusses on how the extracellular environment of cells in a tumour affects their response to different drugs. This research is of great interest in treatment of cancer because, the more detail known about a tumour, the greater the likelihood is of treating it successfully. Further research aims to modify this extracellular environment to improve the efficacy of anticancer agents.

Overall, this was another fantastic symposium and a great opportunity for people to network, learn more about each other's research and gain insight into areas of cancer prevention and treatment that were previously unknown.

 

The link between smoking and cancer

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Tobacco smoking is the single largest extrinsic risk factor for cancer in developed countries, causing almost one in five cases of cancer and 28% of cancer-related deaths in the UK in 2005. Worldwide, smoking causes more cancer deaths than all other known risk factors, and causes even more deaths from vascular and respiratory diseases than from cancer.

The most common cancers worldwide are those of the lung, breast and colorectum, while the most common causes of cancer-related death are lung, stomach and liver cancers. Lung cancer is thus of particular concern as not only is it one of the most common cancers, it is also one of the most common causes of cancer death. It was reliably established in the 1950s that the major cause of lung cancer is smoking tobacco, particularly cigarettes, with more than 4 in 5 lung cancer cases in the UK being caused by smoking. Smoking also increases the risk of at least 13 other cancers, including: larynx (voice box), oesophagus, mouth and pharynx (upper throat), bladder, pancreas, kidney, liver, stomach, bowel, cervix, ovary, nose and sinus, as well as some types of leukaemia. In the past few decades, it has also been increasingly clear that there is also cancer risk from second-hand smoking.

Cumulative risk of death from lung cancer in men at ages 45-75 years

Cumulative risk (%) of death from lung cancer (in the absence of other causes of death) in men at ages 45-75 years: in continuing cigarette smokers, ex-cigarette smokers who stopped at age 50 or age 30 and lifelong nonsmokers, based on lung cancer death rates for men in the United Kingdom in 1990. Taken from: Peto, R., Darby, S., Deo, H., Silcocks, P., Whitley, E. & Doll, R., 2000. Smoking, smoking cessation and lung cancer in the US since 1950: Combination of national statistics with two case-control studies. Br. Med. J., 321, pp.323-329.

Tobacco consumption was originally popularised in America, then in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, and subsequently globally. Cigarettes, which became the most common method of smoking tobacco in the 20th century, have been shown to be significantly more dangerous than the pipe or cigar smoking common in the 19th century. The spread of cigarette smoking in some countries during the 20th century was driven by tobacco companies themselves.

More recently, major efforts have been made in some countries to discourage smoking to some success - for example, cigarette consumption has been halved in a few countries (including the USA, the UK, Canada and France) over the past few decades. However, consumption has increased rapidly in many developing countries, and over one billion people currently smoke worldwide, with 30 million young adults taking up the habit each year. The emergence of increasingly large multinational tobacco companies with global reach could lead to even greater consumption in the future.

Based on current smoking patterns, smoking is expected to cause about 150 million deaths in the first quarter of the 21st century, and 300 million in the second quarter. Thus, helping large numbers of smokers to quit and many young adults not to start smoking in the first place in the next couple of decades could avoid hundreds of millions of smoking-related deaths.

Projected numbers of death from smoking in 21st century.

Projected numbers of deaths from tobacco smoking during the twenty-first century. Taken from: Prabhat, J., 2009. Avoidable global cancer deaths and total deaths from smoking. Nature Reviews Cancer, 9, pp.655-664.

At the 13th CR@B Symposium on 27th April, Dr Jenny Hatchard, Research Associate in the Department for Health at University of Bath, spoke about how tobacco companies are the vector of smoking-related cancers.

Other topics that will be covered by speakers from several different universities and RUH Bath include: integration of approaches in behavioural science and cancer research, synthesis of multimodal PET and SPECT imaging agents towards hypoxia-selective inhibitors, symptom appraisal of pain and cancer survival, and the influence of tumour microenvironment on drug response and targeting tumour stroma.

 

Bath Half Marathon

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Sunday 13th March was the day of the Bath Half Marathon, where thousands of people ran 21km for hundreds of different charities- including many related to cancer. Amongst these were Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie Cancer Care and CoppaFeel.

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At the starting line of Bath Half 2016

Charities like Macmillan Cancer Support and Marie Curie Cancer Care are both involved with supporting people and their families through their illness by offering expert care and guidance. At the University of Bath, the psychology department are working with Royal United Hospital on how best to emotionally support survivors. With the rapid development and success of new treatments, this is becoming a more and more important area. Their research has involved interviewing cancer survivors, and developing a booklet that contains informational and emotional support targeted at the main key concerns and difficulties they had found.

CoppaFeel is a charity aimed at preventing late diagnosis of breast cancer. They do this by ensuring that people:

-       know what their breasts should look and feel like normally

-       check their breasts regularly throughout their lifetime

-       know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer

-       have the confidence to go to the doctors if they find anything not quite right.

Researchers here at The University of Bath are developing probes for the early diagnosis of breast, colon and prostate cancer. They are using luminescent particles tagged with antibodies that bind only diseased tissues. To give you an idea of the impact of this research, it is thought that by early detection:

-       90% of breast cancer cases will survive, compared with only 15% if found at the most advanced stage of the disease

-       70% of lung cancer cases will live for at least one year, compared with only 14% when found late.

-       Between 5000-10000 lives are saved across the country.

If you want to run the half marathon next year, you should consider running for our charity. We will be looking into becoming one of the official race charities, but in the mean time you can fund raise as an ‘own place’ runner by registering through the general public scheme and creating your own JustGiving page.  As one of the 2016 runners, I can tell you from personal experience how great it feels to cross the finish line.

Finisher's Photo, Bath Half 2016  Left: Me Right: My friend Annie

Finisher's Photo, Bath Half 2016
Left: Me
Right: My friend Annie

The run was surprisingly fun, and there’s such a great atmosphere on the day. As we were too late to sign up to be ‘own place’ runners where we could support CR@B, my friend Annie and I signed up to run for Macmillan Cancer Support (another very worthwhile charity!). Between us, we raised over £1500- and even more if you include GiftAid.

If you want to make a difference, sign up now…

(sign up before the 1st April 2016 and you can get a £5 Early Bird Discount!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside cancer: how genes influence cancer development

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'Inside cancer: how genes influence cancer development' is a free, introductory online course developed by researchers at University of Bath, on the FutureLearn platform.

Inside Cancer aims to be a beginner's guide to cancer genetics, targeted at anyone interested in the topic - from sufferers to academics. The course is now running in its second year, being available in the spring and autumn of each year, and has already had over 30,000 participants, from more than 90 countries.

Inside cancer main

Inside Cancer's main page on FutureLearn.

It is entirely a collaborative effort, with many leading researchers from the University of Bath and consultant oncologists from Royal United Hospital in Bath involved in its teaching, many of whom are CR@B members. When Inside Cancer was first designed, all of the academics sat down together at the first session to decide its structure, and that is the format that remains today.

The course is six weeks long, structured into four main sections: basic principles of cancer (week 1); the genetics of cancer, DNA mutations and their importance, and epigenetics (week 2); cell signalling and typical hallmarks of cancer (weeks 3-4); and finally diagnostics and cancer therapy (weeks 5-6).

The course team behind Inside Cancer from University of Bath. Many consultants from Royal United Hospital in Bath are also involved in the course.

The team of University of Bath researchers behind Inside Cancer. Many consultants from Royal United Hospital in Bath are also involved, particularly in the later weeks.

Additionally, every year, a clinical oncologist is invited to give a live lecture to end the course, most recently Dr. Tania Tillett, a consultant medical oncologist from Royal United Hospitals Bath, who spoke about malignant melanoma (a type of cancer that develops from pigment-containing cells known as melanocytes, often occurring in the skin). Gordon McVie, former Director General of Cancer Research UK (1996-2002), gave the first lecture in the series when the course first began. He, along with Umberto Veronesi, also established ecancer.org, a website dedicated to both cancer professionals and patients for news, research, e-learning and videos in the field.

The lead educator, Dr. Momna Hejmadi, a Senior Fellow in the Department of Biology & Biochemistry at University of Bath, wanted to run this MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) due to a personal interest in free and global education for all. It began as a 'trial run', being the first FutureLearn course developed at University of Bath, and has been extremely well-received by learners, with 98% of participants saying that they would recommend the course. A major part of the FutureLearn approach is discussion with others on the course, and the 'buzz' around the content and seeing their benefit has been extremely rewarding for the educators.

Registration for the upcoming Inside Cancer course is now open, to start on March 7th.

 

 

Research into daffodils for new cancer treatments with Dr Lorenzo Caggiano

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Dr Lorenzo Caggiano is a Lecturer in Medicinal Chemistry within the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology and a Co-Chair of CR@B. His research focuses on synthesising small molecules for use in treatment of cancer.

Dr Caggiano is very interested in finding new methods to synthesise compounds, with the goal of making the same molecules found in nature in the lab. Natural products are a huge source of anticancer compounds, but they are typically very difficult to synthesise in a laboratory while plants and animals do so with ease using only what they have around them in the soil or the bottom of the sea. It is this puzzling situation that makes research into these compounds so interesting.

If compounds that are found in nature can be easily made in the lab, they can also be easily modified to make better drugs. This approach is taken by many researchers to improve on what nature has given us, because it is very unlikely that the first compound found is the best. Changes to the molecule can make a drug that is more selective, potent, and overall effective than those previously found.

Yellow daffodils - floriade canberra

Yellow daffodils - floriade canberra

One of Dr Caggiano's research areas is based on compounds found in daffodils (narcissus). These common flowers are known to kill other flowers near them using compounds they synthesise. Two of these compounds are pancratistatin and narciclasine, which have previously been very difficult to synthesise in the lab. Using novel methods, it is possible to synthesise analogous compounds to not only improve the therapeutic potential of the compounds but also to increase efficiency greatly.

It is hoped that this research will be of use in the development of new drugs for the treatment of cancer. The combination of inspiration from nature and scientific knowledge is key to creating new drugs with great potential applications. Dr Caggiano's research group is pushing this field forward, using simple and efficient methods to produce complex and potent new drugs.

 

Recent developments in cancer research: an overview

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Cancer research has yielded huge gains, leading to longer lives and improved quality of life for the millions of people diagnosed with the disease globally each year. Just 11 days ago, on World Cancer Day, Cancer Research UK announced that cancer death rates have fallen by almost 10% in the last ten years in the UK. In the following, a few examples of key recent advances will be described, including immunotherapeutic approaches, traditional treatment methods and targeted therapies.

Fast development in cancer immunotherapy

In recent years, cancer immunotherapy – treatments that enhance the immune system’s ability to fight cancer – have become a major area of research and seen their potential begin to become realised.

At the 10th CR@B Symposium, Dr. Joseph Dukes, Head of Preclinical Biology at Immunocore Ltd, spoke about his company's work on bi-specific drugs based on T-cell receptors that bind to human leukocyte antigen (HLA) peptide on cancer cells and recruit and re-direct host immune T-cells, which kill the target by apoptosis (programmed cell death). Immunocore's lead candidate, IMCgp100, potently re-directs T-cells to kill gp100-expressing tumour cells, does not cross-react with normal cells that do not express gp100, and shows signs of durability and promising efficacy; thus acting as an interesting approach for anti-cancer targeted immunotherapy.

Durability of IMCgp100 - CT scans of a patient over one year of treatment at maximum tolerated dose (MTD). Taken from: Dukes, J., 2014. 'ImmTACs: Bi-specific TCR-anti-CD3 fusions for potent redirected killing of cancer cells.' Paper presented at 10th CR@B Symposium, Bath, 12 November.

Durability of IMCgp100 - CT scans of a patient over one year of treatment at maximum tolerated dose (MTD). Taken from: Dukes, J., 2014. 'ImmTACs: Bi-specific TCR-anti-CD3 fusions for potent redirected killing of cancer cells.' Paper presented at 10th CR@B Symposium, Bath.

Last April, it was found that patients with advanced melanoma had a better response to a combination of two immunotherapeutic drugs, ipilimubab (Yervoy) and nivolumab, than ipilimubab alone, although there were higher rates of serious side effects in patients receiving the combination therapy.

Kaplan-Meier curves for progression-free survival in patients with wt-BRAF tumours treated with the combination regimen or iplimumab alone. Taken from: Postow, M.A., et al., 2015. Nivolumab and Ipilimumab versus Ipilimumab in Untreated Melanoma. The New England Journal of Medicine, 372, pp. 2006-2017.

Another immunotherapy drug, pembrolizumab, displayed improved tumour response and survival rates, again in melanoma patients, and also showed promising early results in treatment of advanced lung cancer - the leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide.

One study on prostate cancer in mice published last August suggested that magnetic fields from an MRI (which are normally used to give an image of the tumour to provide information about its size and localisation, not in treatment itself) could direct cancer-fighting viruses to tumours, through addition of super para-magnetic particles iron oxide nanoparticles to modified immune cells that carry the virus.

Representative RARE images for MDM+OV with or without magnetic resonance targeting (MRT) show a marked difference in tumour size at the beginning and end of therapy. Taken from: Muthana, M., et al., 2015. Directing cell therapy to anatomic target sites in vivo with magnetic resonance targeting. Nature Communications, 6, p. 11.

Representative RARE images for MDM+OV with or without magnetic resonance targeting (MRT) show a marked difference in tumour size at the beginning and end of therapy. Taken from: Muthana, M., et al., 2015. Directing cell therapy to anatomic target sites in vivo with magnetic resonance targeting. Nature Communications, 6, p. 11.

Use of such oncolytic viruses is one of many methods being explored in cancer treatment, but, until now, precise targeting has been a major obstacle in its success, so this method of directing cell therapy using magnetic resonance targeting may overcome the problem. Further studies, however, are required to test if the approach is successful in humans, particularly for tumours located deep within the body.

Advance in treatments

In addition to the successes with immunotherapy, there have also recently been significant advances in well-established treatments, such as surgery and chemotherapy. One example is the use of a novel approach with low-intensity electrical fields to prevent growth of tumour cells trialled on patients with newly-diagnosed glioblastoma multiforme, a highly common brain cancer with a very low survival rate (<3-5% after 5 years). These 'tumour-treating fields' were shown to delay disease progression and increase two-year survival rates compared to patients undergoing standard therapy (brain surgery followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy).

Targeted therapies, which precisely target and attack cancer cells with little damage to normal cells, were also reported to have many successful developments. In 2012, it was first reported that a mutation resulting in the activation of Bruton's tyrosine kinase (BTK), which promotes rapid division of tumour cells, occurs frequently in patients with Waldenström's macroglobulinemia (WM), a rare type of lymphoma. By April last year, it was shown that use of a specific inhibitor of BTK triggers apoptosis of WM cells with that mutation, with high response rates and a 95% two-year survival rate.

Kaplan-Meier curves for progression free (A) and overall survival (B) in 63 previously-treated patients with Waldenström's macroglobulinemia when treated with iprutinib, a small molecule inhibitor of BTK. Taken from: Treon, S.P., et al., 2015. Ibrutinib in Previously Treated Waldenström's Macroglobulinemia. The New England Journal of Medicine, 372, pp.1430-1440.

Kaplan-Meier curves for (A) progression-free and (B) overall survival in 63 previously-treated patients with Waldenström's macroglobulinemia when treated with iprutinib, a small molecule inhibitor of BTK. Taken from: Treon, S.P., et al., 2015. Ibrutinib in Previously Treated Waldenström's Macroglobulinemia. The New England Journal of Medicine, 372, pp.1430-1440.

As with many diseases, drug resistance is a key problem in cancer treatment. Precision medicine approaches, based upon ever-increasing knowledge of the molecular basis of cancer and mechanisms of drug resistance, have made marked gains in overcoming treatment resistance in a range of difficult-to-treat cancers, including blood, ovarian, lung and breast cancers.

Active role of Cancer Research at Bath

Cancer Research at Bath (CR@B) itself has been involved in the publication of over 40 journal articles within the last year alone. One recent study, funded in part by CR@B and published less than two weeks ago, investigated so-called 'junk' non-coding DNA to find that GNG12-AS1, a stretch of non-coding RNA transcribed from junk DNA, prevents uncontrollable cell division and suppresses metastasis (the spread of cancer from its primary site to other parts of the body). The area where GNG12-AS1 is located in the genome is often damaged in breast cancer patients, so regulation of cellular growth is lost and the cancer cells migrate.  The research was published in Nature Communications on 2nd February 2016.

If you'd like to read more about recent discoveries and developments in cancer research, this year's annual reports produced by the American Society of Clinical Oncology and Cancer Research UK in particular were extremely useful in the compilation of this overview, and contain a wealth of interesting studies that I was unable to include!