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Cancer

The cancer programme’s aim is to optimise and develop precision cancer medicine. 

There are three sub themes in the overarching strategy of propelling precision medicine:

Improving the therapeutic index in non-chemotherapy cancer treatment

  • The development of Proton Beam Therapy, which will enhance the level of proton delivery to tumour targets, whilst sparing neighboring healthy tissues. Ultimately, reducing toxicity and allowing increased dose-delivery to the tumour potentially augmenting tumour eradication. 
  • Specific cancer therapies with fewer side effects will also be developed, amplifying anti-tumour efficacy.
     

Understanding tumour heterogeneity and targeted therapy

  • Research has revealed that inter and intra-tumour heterogeneity can drive phenotypic variation, giving rise to genomic instability, thus making the delivery of precision cancer medicine problematic.
  • Mechanisms of cancer genome instability which drive tumour heterogeneity, potentially leading to treatment failure, will be explored.
  • The diversity of tumour cells will be exploited in an attempt to determine their response to therapy, thereby enhancing individualised treatment options. 
  • The development of resistance to targeted therapy will also be investigated. 

Cancer immunotherapy

  • Immunotherapy is heralded as the biggest cancer breakthrough in decades - the ability of T-cells, which are present in many tumours, will be exploited to destroy tumour cells.
  • Boosting patients’ immune responses to tumour and the application of genetically engineered T cells in trials will be some of the strategies employed.
  • Underlying these strategies, investments have been made in cutting edge imaging, molecular profiling and facilities for early phase clinical trials. Our research is primarily focused on those malignancies in which there are clinical strengths reinforced by dedicated laboratory programmes at UCL and UCLH.

Within the cancer programme there is an active ongoing collaboration with The Doctor’s Laboratory on a DNA replication marker, mcm5 as a diagnostic tool for pancreaticobiliary malignancy and cystic lesions of the pancreas with the aim of commercialising the assay.

There are strong links with imaging device manufacturers (GE, Spectrum Dynamics) with current support from Siemens, with whom we are developing, via BRC proof of concept funds, a novel phase contrast x-ray technology that will provide earlier more accurate detection of breast cancers compared to current clinical practices.

A very close working relationship has been established with Cellectis Therapeutics with the development of first in man clinical studies based on combined UCL and Cellectis technology to be conducted in the UCLH Clinical Research Facility. Researchers have generated a sort-suicide gene termed RQR8, which can reduce toxicity in patients undergoing treatment. 
Researchers are working with Michelson Diagnostics on the development and commercialisation of a new device. 

BRC researchers are working with Abcodia, a UCL spin out biomarker calibration company which sets up collaborations using samples from our trial UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening biobank.

Autolus, a spin out biotechnology company working on next generation CAR technology, was formed following a £50m investment from Syncona. 

Spin out Achilles Therapeutics has secured £23m from Syncona to work on immunotherapy, harnessing the immune system to destroy cancer cells.