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Cracking the Cancer Code

Can you imagine a time when cancer treatments could be personalised to speed up recovery and improve survival rates? This was the scenario described at a recent MediCity www.medicityuk.com fund-raising event for the John van Geest Cancer Research Centre based in Nottingham. It would seem that the time is nearer than we might dare to believe. A team of 35 international scientists under the direction of Professor Bob Rees at Nottingham Trent University is pushing the boundaries of cancer research even further http://www.ntu.ac.uk/van_geest/. The Centre’s research programmes in personalised medical treatment, diagnosis and immunotherapy aim to change the lives of cancer patients for ever.

Written by Paul Brown on 21st March 2016

Cracking the Cancer Code

Can you imagine a time when cancer treatments could be personalised to speed up recovery and improve survival rates? This was the scenario described at a recent MediCity www.medicityuk.com fund-raising event for the John van Geest Cancer Research Centre based in Nottingham. It would seem that the time is nearer than we might dare to believe. A team of 35 international scientists under the direction of Professor Bob Rees at Nottingham Trent University is pushing the boundaries of cancer research even further http://www.ntu.ac.uk/van_geest/. The Centre’s research programmes in personalised medical treatment, diagnosis and immunotherapy aim to change the lives of cancer patients for ever.

It so happened that the following day Sir Paul Nurse, the eminent geneticist and cell biologist, delivered his lecture on ‘Great Ideas of Biology’ for the Nottingham Trent University Distinguished Lecture Series. From the early discovery of the cell as the basic unit of life, through understanding the gene and evolution by natural selection, to life as chemistry, the CEO of the Francis Crick Institute challenged us to think about how science will tackle the problems of the future. He contends that we need a different approach to addressing complex issues – one he refers to as ‘gentle anarchy’ – which would see biologists, chemists, physicists, mathematicians and creative minds working in the same multi-disciplinary ‘laboratory’. This is the counter-intuitive model Sir Paul intends to pursue through the Francis Crick Institute – to allow the brightest young minds freedom (under some direction) to ask the currently unanswerable and to pursue solutions with colleagues of other mind-sets.

Interestingly, if you take a closer look at the cancer research work undertaken by the John van Geest Cancer Research Centre, the team-working and collaboration with their clinical partners across the East Midlands displays many of those innovative characteristics pursued by the Crick. From cell biology, to mathematical modelling and wellbeing expertise, the van Geest vision to crack the cancer code comes a little closer as each research boundary is crossed. Recent reported breakthroughs include the identification of a potential 'therapeutic target' for a form of breast cancer which is particularly difficult to treat. Further research may pave the way for a new vaccine to treat patients with 'triple negative breast cancer' (TNBC) as the presence of a cancer-specific protein appears to predict how well patients with TNBC will respond to chemotherapy. As a result, it could help spare some of these patients from undergoing unnecessary treatment.

I was really helped in my understanding of the study of these proteins by Dr David Boocock’s talk at the MediCity fundraising lunch. If you want a simple guide to mass spectrometry – the measurement of tiny things - you must read his blog http://blogs.ntu.ac.uk/van_geest/a-simple-guide-to-mass-spectrometry-by-dr-david-boocock/.

See other blogs related to: Lifescience

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