Developing non-invasive pathology for the delivery of precision anti-cancer medicine

Developing non-invasive pathology for the delivery of precision anti-cancer medicine

As part of a Rosetrees Trust-funded PhD studentship project at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), Dr. Simon Robinson, Dr. Yann Jamin, and Konstantinos Zormpas-Petridis, are working to bridge the gap between two clinically useful disciplines to demonstrate that MRI can complement diagnostic molecular pathology, and develop MRI as a non-invasive tool to characterise tumour heterogeneity and evolution in situ.

The focus of this project is childhood neuroblastoma, a pathology-rich disease with a very wide range of clinical outcomes. In their latest research, using their image analysis framework, the team have demonstrated that the clinically available MRI technique called T1-mapping is sensitive to the underlying neuroblastoma pathology. Published in Cancer Research, this non-invasive scanning technique can detect and map the presence of active (including resistant) disease, and can subsequently inform on the response to treatment in a specific model of neuroblastoma, including promising MYCN-targeted treatment.

The team will move to initiating the translation of their MRI scans into the neuroblastoma clinic. Through a clinical and biological study within standard-of-care- induction chemotherapy, the aim now will be to use their approach to help identify active disease in children with neuroblastoma and help enhance response assessment, surgical planning, and biopsies guidance, for improved genomic characterisation.

Written by: Dr. Rebecca Downing

Dr. David Kent, Dr. Nina Öbro, and Dr. Jacob Grinfeld: Getting to know Rosetrees researchers

Dr. David Kent, Dr. Nina Öbro, and Dr. Jacob Grinfeld: Getting to know Rosetrees researchers

Rosetrees researcher profile: Dr. David Kent, Dr. Nina Öbro, and Dr. Jacob Grinfeld, University of Cambridge

Who Rosetrees Trust is funding

Postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Nina Öbro, and clinical PhD student, Dr. Jacob Grinfeld, led this project with the aim of identifying new biomarkers in the early stages of blood cancer. The work was carried out in the research laboratory of Dr. David Kent, where work focuses on understanding how single blood stem cells are subverted to drive blood cancers. Many blood cancers are thought to arise from a series of mutations in blood stem cells, that cause an overproduction of blood cells, eventually leading to cancer. However, comparatively little is understood about the role played by the environment in which these cells reside, especially in the early stages of cancer development. This project therefore undertook an investigation of the proteins present in serum samples from patients with diseases known as chronic myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) a powerful disease model for studying the early stages of tumours. Their approach was to identify novel biomarkers associated with cancer progression, and to uncover the biological role of these biomarkers in the emergence of blood cancer stem cells.

David said: “The recent explosion of genetic data in patients has led to some incredible advances in diagnosis and treatment, but it is very clear that mutations in genes cannot explain all the differences between patients. This project therefore set out to understand the cellular context in which these mutated cells reside – asking the question of whether specific proteins in the blood correlated with or drive disease progression.”

Dr. David Kent

The Kent lab has now relocated to the York Biomedical Research Institute in the Department of Biology at The University of York where researchers continues to pursue the goal of understanding the disease evolution of blood cancers. Jacob is now a consultant in Leeds and Nina has undertaken a new position as Senior Researcher at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen.

How Rosetrees Trust have supported Dr. David Kent, Dr. Nina Öbro, and Dr. Jacob Grinfeld

The Kent Lab received funding for this research grant from 2016 to 2019, and it was Nina and Jacob who drove this project. The funds from the Rosetrees Trust allowed the team to purchase the necessary laboratory reagents to monitor changes in protein biomarkers at diagnosis and throughout the disease.

What the outcomes are of Rosetrees Trust-funded research from Dr. David Kent, Dr. Nina Öbro, and Dr. Jacob Grinfeld

The first research paper to emerge from this project has now been published in the European Hematology Association’s new journal Hemasphere. Nina and Jacob’s results, from a comprehensive serum cytokine profile of more than 400 MPN patient samples, identified an essential thrombocythemia (ET)-specific inflammatory cytokine signature consisting of Eotaxin, GRO-α, and EGF. Their data implicates the immune cell microenvironment as a significant player in ET disease evolution, and also illustrates the utility of using cytokines as biomarkers for reaching beyond genomic classification for disease stratification and monitoring.

Written by: Dr. Rebecca Downing and Dr. David Kent

An Introduction to the Physics of Medicine Network

An Introduction to the Physics of Medicine Network

The Physics of Medicine (2020-2023) is an exciting new Rosetrees Trust-funded project that has recently launched, representing a new partnership with the well-established Physics of Life network.

The Physics of Life network is a community driven network consisting of researchers from the physical and life sciences, which first started in 2012. During that time, the network has successfully attracted engagement from UK wide based researchers, through delivering an impressive number of student bursaries, pump priming funding and events, such as workshops. It was the second iteration, PoLNET2, which worked with UKRI (EPSRC, BBSRC and MRC) to help formulate a £30M investment under a new funding call, ‘Building Collaborations at the Physics of Life Interface’, split across two calls (in 2019 and 2021). UKRI (EPSRC, BBSRC, MRC) have continued to recognise the success of this network, and are now supporting the network into its third iteration (PoLNET3; 2020-2023), led by Professor Tom McLeish, FRS.

The third phase of the network further broadened its ambitions, to specifically encourage engagement from clinical and medical communities. This resulted in the formation of a new, separate arm to the network ‘Physics of Medicine, 2020-2023’, led by Professor Stephen Smye, OBE.

Professor Stephen Smye, OBE, said: “The contribution of the physical sciences to medicine is long-standing and significant, not least in the development of new technologies, but there are many new and surprising opportunities for further fruitful and exciting interdisciplinary approaches to tackle some of the major research questions in medicine. The Rosetrees Physics of Medicine network will promote novel collaborations between clinicians, biological and physical scientists by seeing how techniques and approaches developed in apparently disparate areas can be brought to bear on some of the major clinical challenges, including antimicrobial resistance, precision treatments for cancer and virus dynamics.”

Physics of Medicine aims to significantly enhance clinical participation into the Physics of Life network. The objective is to create a sustainable, clinically-focused, Physics of Medicine network community – as part of the wider Physics of Life network, by delivering a 3-year programme of multidisciplinary workshops linked to major clinical and biological challenges.

Physics of Medicine will therefore deliver a short series of ‘Rosetrees Interdisciplinary Challenge Workshops’ over the next 3 years, covering key clinical challenges from the perspective of the Physics of Life, including but not limited to; Anti-microbial resistance, Metastasis and resistance, Neurodegenerative disease, Gut disorders, Joint degeneration and Heart disease. In each case, the workshop will be jointly organised with cognate national research charities and other funders including NIHR, UKRI, and the Wellcome Trust.

There are many ways to get involved with the Physics of Medicine, the community is OPEN and available for everyone to join!

You can get involved in the following ways:

• Become a member by signing up to the Physics of Life newsletter for FREE. This will enable you to be up to date with all available opportunities.

• Apply for funding from Physics of Life or Physics of Medicine – both are relevant to the medical and clinical communities (support is available for workshops, sandpits support, summer student bursaries and pump priming, calls to follow).

• Attend one of our many events over the next 3 years (Workshops, Sandpits, Summer Schools) – virtually or physically!

• Follow the Physics of Life on Twitter! @PhysicsOfLifeUK

• Look out for the next linked funding call; UKRI Physics of Life Strategic Priority: ‘Building Collaborations at the Physics of Life Interface’.

• Visit the Physics of Life website which is regularly being updated to provide the latest information on their funding opportunities.

Please contact Network Coordinator, Karis Baker (, for any enquiries related to Physics of Medicine.