University of Nottingham research developments could mean new drugs will reach cancer patients more quickly

A £3 million grant and the establishment of a specialized business unit that will help new treatments reach cancer patients more quickly, have underlined The University of Nottingham’s place at the forefront of cancer drug development.

The five-year grant from the US-based Aphton Corporation has been awarded to the University’s Academic Unit of Cancer Studies, allowing the continuation of research that has led to the development of the cancer drug Insegia (G17DT). This is already being used to successfully treat patients with cancer of the stomach and pancreas, known to be among the hardest forms of the disease to combat.

The unit has a long-standing relationship with Aphton and has been working on the development of Insegia (G17DT) with them for around 10 years — the very promising results from recent clinical trials centred at Nottingham, were presented in June at a prestigious cancer conference in the US. This new funding will allow the University to considerably expand this cancer research area.

Professor of Pre-Clinical Oncology Sue Watson, who heads the unit, said: "Each type of cancer is very different and we are trying to develop drugs that will enhance chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and prove less toxic to the patient thereby improving the quality of life and extending survival rates.

"The team aims to develop a greater understanding of the more solid cancers that are typically resistant to treatment, and are particularly interested in investigating gene delivery into areas of hypoxia (where the tumour can survive without oxygen and can resist chemotherapy and radiotherapy). Researchers are also looking at intracellular signalling involving a central enzyme that prevents normal cell death and is therefore responsible for the immortality of the tumour."

Despite successes in the field of cancer research, other new and improved treatments for the many different types of cancer are urgently needed and so, in order to speed up drug development, Professor Watson’s team has channelled its expertise into establishing a University business unit, named PRECOS, launched last month. PRECOS will form partnerships with scientists at Nottingham, as well as pharmaceutical companies, in the design of new cancer treatments.

"The launch of PRECOS will allow new treatments to reach patients more quickly by providing new cutting-edge equipment to allow more efficient and effective pre-clinical evaluation of anti-cancer agents," said Professor Watson, who will act as the new unit’s chief executive.

"We will work collaboratively with academics in other University schools and institutes, and maintain close ties with clinicians based within the Nottingham/Derby area, as well as linking with industrial collaborators, ranging from large pharmaceutical companies to smaller, new biotech firms who can take advantage of this new research facility.

"Both developments add to the increasing success of the Cancer Research at Nottingham Centre, established last year to exploit the wide-ranging research potential of the University of Nottingham in this area."

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