Molecular profiling of early lung cancer lesions could lead to more rapid diagnosis and potential new treatments

Molecular profiling of early lung cancer lesions could lead to more rapid diagnosis and potential new treatments

Professor Sam Janes, UCL

The results of a ten year study into the origins of lung cancer funded by Rosetrees Trust and other partners has been published in Nature Medicine. The research, led by Professor Sam Janes at UCL investigated precancerous lung lesions found in the airway. Of these half will actually become lung cancer, while others will disappear or remain benign without becoming harmful. Under the microscope, the lesions look the same, making it difficult to know which lesions to treat.

Professor Janes and his team have for the first time, discovered the differences between the lesions that will become invasive and those that are harmless, and they can accurately predict which lesions will become cancerous.

“Our study helps to understand the earliest stages of lung cancer development, by figuring out what’s going on inside these cells even before they become cancerous,” said the study’s lead author, Professor Sam Janes (UCL Division of Medicine and University College London Hospitals, UCLH).

“Using this information, we may be able to develop screening tests, and new treatments that could stop cancer in its tracks.”

“We are now continuing our research to further understand how these genes are driving cancer progression, and to see which ones could be targeted by new drug treatments,” said co-first author Dr Vitor Teixeira (UCL Division of Medicine).

The study involved researchers at UCL Division of Medicine, UCL Cancer Insititute, UCLH, Wellcome Sanger Institute, Boston University, The Francis Crick Institute, Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute and University of St Andrews, and was supported by Wellcome, Rosetrees Trust, Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, Welton Trust, Garfield Weston Trust, Stoneygate Trust, UCLH Charitable Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Stand Up to Cancer, and the University College London Hospitals National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre.

New Rosetrees Trust Funding Schemes

New Rosetrees Trust Funding Schemes

We’re pleased to announce the launch of a new fellowship scheme and a modification to our seedcorn scheme.

Young Enterprise Fellowships

Young Enterprise Fellowships (YEFs) are aimed specifically at recently qualified postdoctoral researchers primarily in the fields of engineering, computer science, maths and physics who wish to develop a long-term programme of biomedical research within a UK university. We’re keen to encourage fresh thinking to tackle clinical problems and would like to see more ideas and input from physical scientists, mathematicians and engineers. We’re looking for projects that will be genuinely innovative and potentially transformative. The fellowship is aimed at junior researchers and would facilitate their first steps towards independence.  More details can be found here.

Modified Seedcorn Funding

We’re also modifying our seedcorn funding scheme. Most grant applications and fellowships require a significant amount of pilot data but funding for pilot data projects is hard to come by so we’re modifying our existing seedcorn funding scheme with the eventual aim of potentially funding more projects. All shortlisted projects will be assessed by an academic review panel and grants will be limited to 18 months duration and £15,000 and we will not require interim reporting only one final report at the end of the project. We’ll use these final reports to identify projects that we might be interested in funding further. Further details can be found here.

Genetic study of eating disorders

Genetic study of eating disorders

The research of MQ/Rosetrees fellow, Dr Clare Llewellyn was recently featured in a Guardian newspaper article. Clare’s research focuses on identifying the role of genetics and early eating habits in conditions such as bulimia and anorexia. The study aims to build on research, some of it conducted by Clare, which examined the influence of genetics and childhood eating patterns on obesity. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness and such conditions are estimated to cost the UK about £15bn a year. She will analyse data from twins whose mental health, genetic and parental factors have been tracked from birth through to their teenage years.

The full article can be found here.

New trial in cardiomyopathy

New trial in cardiomyopathy

Dr. Sanjay Prasad

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a condition in which the wall of the heart gets stretched and thin. Patient outcomes vary but for many the symptoms improve and patients can live normal lives. However, it is unknown whether it is safe to discontinue treatment for patients who are asymptomatic. Patients, many of who can be young are reluctant to continue taking medications without evidence of continued benefit especially if they are experiencing side-effects. There is also a financial burden for patients in some countries. A pilot study published in the Lancet led by Dr. Sanjay Prasad at the National Heart and Lung Institute has addressed this question and shown that patients who discontinued the treatment were likely to suffer a relapse. This suggests that the improvement in cardiac function is a remission rather than a sustained recovery and withdrawal of treatment should not be considered routinely in these patients. Further research to identify parameters that will discriminate remission from recovery may enable the safe withdrawal of treatment in some patients.

 

World’s first functional tissue engineered oesophagus

World’s first functional tissue engineered oesophagus

Paolo De Coppi, ICH

A pioneering new study from Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and The Francis Crick Institute co-funded by the Rosetrees Trust has seen researchers grow the world’s first oesophagus engineered from stem cells and successfully transplanted them into mice, according to results published in Nature Communications. Around one in 3,000 babies (in the UK) are born with a life-changing defect of the gut such as oesophageal atresia, which results in an incomplete oesophagus. The study was carried out in pre-clinical models and further research is needed but it is hoped that this new research could ultimately pave the way for clinical trials of lab-grown oesophageal tissue for children with congenital and acquired gut conditions.

Paola Bonfanti, The Crick Institute

Paolo De Coppi, who is co-lead author of the paper, Consultant at GOSH and Head of Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine at ICH said:“This is a major step forward for regenerative medicine, bringing us ever closer to treatment that goes beyond repairing damaged tissue and offers the possibility of rejection-free organs and tissues for transplant.”
Study co-lead author Dr Paola Bonfanti, who is also a Group Leader at The Francis Crick Institute and Research Associate at ICH said: “This is the first time that such a complicated organ has been grown in the lab. Not only is the gut tube shaped, but as it also consists of several different layers of cells, which means we had to use a multi-step approach to develop a piece of oesophagus which resembles and works the same as a normal one.” More information can be found here.

Virtual tumours to aid in cancer drug delivery

Virtual tumours to aid in cancer drug delivery

Scientists can now simulate the delivery of cancer drugs and therefore help predict their effectiveness as a result of Rosetrees-funded research from UCL. The research was led by our 2016 Interdisciplinary award winners, Dr. Rebecca Shipley and Dr. Simon Walker-Samuel. The work combines high-resolution imaging and computational modelling to virtually reconstruct cancers for these simulations.Cancers vary markedly in their architecture from patient to patient, which results in considerable variation drug uptake between patients. This makes it difficult to predict which patients will benefit from a drug.

Dr. Simon Walker-Samuel, UCL

The research has significant potential for the development of effective, targeted cancer therapies. The study combined advanced imaging techniques with mathematical modelling, creating virtual simulations able to investigate how drugs are distributed once injected and help predict tumour response.

The framework, named REANIMATE (REAlistic Numerical Image-based Modelling of biologicAl Tissue substratEs), reconstructs tumours so that researchers can run

Dr. Rebecca Shipley, UCL

detailed computational experiments to study the transport of fluid and its complex interactions with biological tissue. Dr. Shipley based in the Dept. of Mechanical Engineering and Director of UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering, commented “REANIMATE’s integration of ex vivo and in vivo imaging with mathematical modelling is a novel approach that provides an entirely new framework for therapy prediction in tumours.” Dr. Simon Walker-Samuel, UCL Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging, explained “These advances are a truly interdisciplinary effort and would not be possible without the combined input of mathematicians, cancer biologists, clinicians, imaging specialists and engineers.”The research was published in Nature Biomedical Engineering and was funded by the Rosetrees Trust and Wellcome Trust. More information can be found here.