North Staffordshire researchers have been awarded £18,450 to develop a new treatment for chemo-resistant cancers.
The group, led by research pharmacologist Dr Alan Richardson, hopes to extend the lives of thousands of patients with breast, ovarian and lung cancers that have stopped responding to chemotherapy drug paclitaxel.
They aim to develop a new drug to stop cancer cells producing a protein that makes them resistant to the therapy.
Dr Richardson and his team will receive the grant from Stoke-on-Trent charity the North Staffordshire Medical Institute.
He said: “Patients who get ovarian cancer respond well to chemo, but they often suffer a relapse and when they come back they become resistant to treatment. At that point the number of options left are limited and there’s not a lot that can be done.
“Our goal is to discover drugs that make cells sensitive again to chemo.”
Ending Drug Resistance
Paclitaxel is normally given to patients through an intravenous drip and works by stopping cancer cells from dividing and growing.
The scientists, based at Keele University’s Institute for Science and Technology in Medicine (ISTM), have found that paclitaxel-resistant cells make too much of a protein called branched chain keto-acid dehydrogenase kinase (BCKDK).
They plan to test a range of chemicals in the lab with samples of pure BCKDK in a bid to block the gene that tells cancer cells to produce it.
Dr Richardson said: “I used to work at the Institute for Cancer Research in London and I started a screen to identify genes that contribute to drug resistance.
“Since then we’ve identified one gene and if we inhibit it, it makes the cancer cells more sensitive to paclitaxel. So we’re going to make drugs to inhibit this gene and hopefully extend people’s lives.”
Dr Richardson’s team will use the money to buy the state-of-the-art equipment they need to set up the initial tests. This will help them to apply for more funding to develop the drug further and eventually test it in patients.
The grant was allocated as part of the NSMI’s annual awards, which are funded by a combination of public donations, bequests and the income from conferences and room hire at the charity’s base on Hartshill Road, Stoke.
Once Britain’s first postgraduate centre, the iconic building is now used as a conference facility.
While the annual funding has now all been allocated, researchers will soon be able to apply for the Institute and UHNM’s Firelighter Awards of up to £10,000.
For more information, visit www.nsmedicalinstitute.co.uk, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. Anyone interested in making a bequest is asked to email manager Jacqui Robinson at email@example.com.