Researchers given £260,000 by charity for pioneering projects

Posted 21st July 2023

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Clatterbridge researchers have been given £260,000 from the Clatterbridge Cancer Charity to pursue new cutting-edge studies.

The new research projects, designed to further our knowledge of cancer or improve treatment and care, were successful in the annual Clatterbridge Research Funding Scheme.

In all, 18 separate projects – split into large, medium and small schemes – were considered by a judging panel before the final seven were chosen to be awarded funds.

One of the large studies which won £50,000 in funding is being led by Dr Ainhoa Mielgo, a Reader in the Department of Molecular and Clinical Cancer Medicine of the University of Liverpool, with Clatterbridge Medical Oncologist Prof Dan Palmer as clinical lead.

The research aims to reduce the spread of pancreatic cancer in patients who have chemotherapy.

The team will try to cut the chances of the cancer spreading to other organs, often the liver, by blocking certain immune cells that help this process. This has been carried out successfully in the laboratory and the funding allows the team to try to replicate this in patients.

Another large study which has received £50,000 is being undertaken by Professor Christian Ottensmeier, Clatterbridge Consultant in Medical Oncology, who is leading research into which types of immunotherapy work best – and in which combination – for different patients with head and neck cancer.

The research uses a cutting-edge technology, called multiplex immunofluorescence, which simultaneously identifies specific proteins and immune cell types that can lead to the creation of a profile of each patient so they can be catagorised, and the right treatment selected for them.

A further award of £50,000 was secured by Specialist Registrar in Haematology Dr Yeong Jer (Troy) Lim to study the cells of people with blood cancer. His team will try to discover which immune cells lead to which certain outcomes for patients with different types of blood cancer, using samples taken from Merseyside patients.

Clatterbridge consultant in palliative care, Dr Seamus Coyle, was also awarded £50,000 to undertake more studies into his pioneering work to understand the dying process in cancer patients. Dr Coyle has developed a test to accurately predict a patient’s risk of death within the last four weeks of life and this award will allow research to be carried out on blood plasma from Clatterbridge patients with solid tumour cancers to test his prediction tool.

Research by Dr Umair Khan, a Haematology Specialist Registrar, into blood cancer treatments is also being funded by the charity to the tune of £20,000. The treatments – called Bruton’s tyrosine kinase inhibitors (BTKi) – are widely used and are very effective therapies for some blood cancers, with most people tolerating them well. However, some patients can develop high blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat and Dr Khan’s research will analyse NHS data to work out which patients are most at risk from these side effects.

Two other projects, which each received £20,000 from the charity, are a study of alternative cancer therapies by Clinical Research Fellow Dr Indrani Karpha, and a study to find out if a smaller number of radiotherapy sessions for head and neck cancer patients are still as safe and effective, being carried out by Clatterbridge consultant, Dr Anoop Haridass.

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Dr Gillian Heap, Director of Research Operations, said: “We are extremely grateful to the Clatterbridge Cancer Charity for funding these exciting and forward-thinking projects, which are designed to have a direct and positive impact on cancer treatment and care at Clatterbridge.

“The fact that twice as many projects were submitted than could be financed this time shows just how enterprising and innovative our research-active colleagues within the Trust.”

Katrina Bury, Head of the Clatterbridge Cancer Charity, said: “We are delighted to be able to fund this ground-breaking research, which is driving forward new knowledge in cancer treatments. The primary aim of the Charity is to help improve outcomes for Clatterbridge patients and this life-saving research is helping to do just that.”

The leaders of the projects are required to submit a progress report after one year of their proposed start dates and within three months of completion.