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  • Health & Medicine

2008 – Our progress and achievements (part 3)

by Kat Arney | Analysis

23 January 2009

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Test tubes

We've made great strides in clinical cancer research in the past year

We’ve already written about our progress in fundamental lab research and cancer prevention over the past year.  We’re also actively involved in research to discover and test new treatments for cancer, through translational research and clinical trials.  In this final instalment, here are some examples of our progress in this area in 2008.

Switching on the “genome’s guardian”

Cancer Research UK-funded scientists in Dundee have identified molecules that can activate p53 –  the “guardian of the genome” – and slow tumour growth in mice.  The researchers discovered the candidate chemicals, called Tenovins, after testing 30,000 molecules in cells grown in the lab. The next step is to develop them further into effective new cancer drugs.

Drug resistance discovery

As we reported in November, researchers at our Cambridge Research Institute have made a significant breakthrough in understanding why some women’s breast cancers develop resistance to Tamoxifen. This discovery reveals new opportunities to overcome drug resistance in breast cancer treatment.  

MRI improvements

Cancer Research UK-funded scientists in Cambridge are at the forefront of developing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to monitor people’s tumours. This has the potential to be an extremely powerful tool for diagnosing cancer and monitoring patients’ progress in the clinic.

“Wanted poster” for cancer cells

Scientists at our London Research Institute have identified a new protein, called DNGR-1, which can be used to highlight tumour proteins to the immune system, like a molecular “wanted poster”.  Importantly, the team showed that this approach could be used to both prevent and treat melanoma in mice with the disease. 

Cancer drug target found

Researchers at the Institute for Cancer Research in Sutton have discovered that a group of proteins known as the HSP70 family could potentially be important targets for future cancer drugs.  These proteins are related to HSP90, a well-known cancer-related protein.  Drugs designed to block HSP90 are currently being tested in clinical trials, but these results suggest that HSP70 blockers could also be effective.

Side effects not all bad

As we reported in October, Cancer Research UK-funded scientists involved in the ATAC clinical trial have shown that side effects from hormone therapy for breast cancer are not necessarily a bad thing. This study suggests that these symptoms may give an important early indication of how well the treatment is working, and the knowledge could help patients to persist with treatment in the face of side effects. 

Cancer in children and teens

Cancer Research UK-funded researchers in Manchester have collected the first set of cancer statistics for teens and young adults (aged 13-24). This important analysis sets the baseline for monitoring future progress in teenage cancer survival.  And it draws attention to the fact that it’s important to consider young people with cancer as a group on their own, rather than classifying them with young children or older adults.

Radiotherapy for bladder cancer

Cancer Research UK-funded scientists in Leeds have found that radiotherapy could be as effective as surgery for treating invasive bladder cancer. The finding is particularly important for elderly patients, because surgery to remove the bladder in this age group can have a severe impact on their quality of life.

Breast cancer radiotherapy results

Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research have shown that fewer, larger doses of radiotherapy for breast cancer are just as effective as the standard schedule of 25 doses. This means fewer trips to hospital, making life easier for women with breast cancer.

Burkitt’s lymphoma treatment test

Cancer Research UK-funded scientists have discovered a genetic test that will help doctors to select the best way to treat patients with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a cancer that affects mainly young adults and teens.

Personalised breast cancer treatment

As we wrote about recently on the blog, researchers in Edinburgh have discovered that a readily available genetic test could predict whether a woman’s breast cancer will respond to treatment with epirubicin.

Drugs tailored to genetic faults

Cancer Research UK scientists in Newcastle are running a clinical trial testing a new drug for women with breast or ovarian cancer caused by inherited faults in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. We also played a key role in the drug’s development.

As we’ve shown, 2008 has been a bumper year for our researchers, and we look forward to blogging about their progress and impact over the coming year.  Next week we’ll bring you news of our successes in the area of political campaigning, as we push for better cancer services and public health in the UK.



S LAIN, J HOLLICK, J CAMPBELL, O STAPLES, M HIGGINS, M AOUBALA, A MCCARTHY, V APPLEYARD, K MURRAY, L BAKER (2008). Discovery, In Vivo Activity, and Mechanism of Action of a Small-Molecule p53 Activator Cancer Cell, 13 (5), 454-463 DOI: 10.1016/j.ccr.2008.03.004

Antoni Hurtado, Kelly A. Holmes, Timothy R. Geistlinger, Iain R. Hutcheson, Robert I. Nicholson, Myles Brown, Jie Jiang, William J. Howat, Simak Ali, Jason S. Carroll (2008). Regulation of ERBB2 by oestrogen receptor–PAX2 determines response to tamoxifen Nature, 456 (7222), 663-666 DOI: 10.1038/nature07483

Ferdia A. Gallagher, Mikko I. Kettunen, Sam E. Day, De-En Hu, Jan Henrik Ardenkjær-Larsen, René in ‘t Zandt, Pernille R. Jensen, Magnus Karlsson, Klaes Golman, Mathilde H. Lerche, Kevin M. Brindle (2008). Magnetic resonance imaging of pH in vivo using hyperpolarized 13C-labelled bicarbonate Nature, 453 (7197), 940-943 DOI: 10.1038/nature07017

David Sancho, Diego Mourão-Sá, Olivier P. Joffre, Oliver Schulz, Neil C. Rogers, Daniel J. Pennington, James R. Carlyle, Caetano Reis e Sousa (2008). Tumor therapy in mice via antigen targeting to a novel, DC-restricted C-type lectin Journal of Clinical Investigation, 118 (6), 2098-2110 DOI: 10.1172/JCI34584

M POWERS, P CLARKE, P WORKMAN (2008). Dual Targeting of HSC70 and HSP72 Inhibits HSP90 Function and Induces Tumor-Specific Apoptosis Cancer Cell, 14 (3), 250-262 DOI: 10.1016/j.ccr.2008.08.002

J CUZICK, I SESTAK, D CELLA, L FALLOWFIELD (2008). Treatment-emergent endocrine symptoms and the risk of breast cancer recurrence: a retrospective analysis of the ATAC trial The Lancet Oncology, 9 (12), 1143-1148 DOI: 10.1016/S1470-2045(08)70259-6

J M Birch, D Pang, R D Alston, S Rowan, M Geraci, A Moran, T O B Eden (2008). Survival from cancer in teenagers and young adults in England, 1979–2003 British Journal of Cancer, 99 (5), 830-835 DOI: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6604460

S KOTWAL, A CHOUDHURY, C JOHNSTON, A PAUL, P WHELAN, A KILTIE (2008). Similar Treatment Outcomes for Radical Cystectomy and Radical Radiotherapy in Invasive Bladder Cancer Treated at a United Kingdom Specialist Treatment Center International Journal of Radiation OncologyBiologyPhysics, 70 (2), 456-463 DOI: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2007.06.030

START Trialists Group (2008). The UK Standardisation of Breast Radiotherapy (START) Trial A of radiotherapy hypofractionation for treatment of early breast cancer: a randomised trial The Lancet Oncology, 9 (4), 331-341 DOI: 10.1016/S1470-2045(08)70077-9

START Trialists Group (2008). The UK Standardisation of Breast Radiotherapy (START) Trial B of radiotherapy hypofractionation for treatment of early breast cancer: a randomised trial The Lancet, 371 (9618), 1098-1107 DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(08)60348-7

G. M. Mead, S. L. Barrans, W. Qian, J. Walewski, J. A. Radford, M. Wolf, S. M. Clawson, S. P. Stenning, C. L. Yule, A. S. Jack (2008). A prospective clinicopathologic study of dose-modified CODOX-M/IVAC in patients with sporadic Burkitt lymphoma defined using cytogenetic and immunophenotypic criteria (MRC/NCRI LY10 trial) Blood, 112 (6), 2248-2260 DOI: 10.1182/blood-2008-03-145128