Cancer — Introduction

The Cancer Theme aims to develop new treatments, and combinations of treatments, to benefit cancer patients.

We are investigating possible new targets for cancer treatment and whether there are better ways of combining treatment than those currently used. This work involves finding ways to see which genes – the codes inside cells that determine how they behave – are affected by cancer treatment.

By investing in the tools that allows us to analyse tumours before, during, and after intervention, we can better understand the biological effects of treatment and use this to improve them.

Our work has had a real impact on cancer patients in the UK; the results of studies within the Oxford Cancer Theme redefined the standard of care for chemoradiation of pancreatic cancer.

Building on our previous successes we now deliver smaller Early Phase trials involving subsets of patients. It is through these trials that we have the ability to change patient care, by moving away from one-size-fits-all phase 3 trials towards more personalised medicine in tightly defined clinical populations. To find out more about the Oxford Early Phase Clinical Trials Unit, and the researchers, medics, nurses and patients that are part of it, watch the video below:

In the field of personalised medicine we have established platforms to select patients for treatment according to genotype and/or protein biomarkers. We will be building on this work by working alongside colleagues in Oxford, including the Blood and Immunology Themes.

Looking ahead our focus will be on developing immunotherapies to learn more about drugs that can boost the ability of the immune system to combat cancer and targeting stem-cells in melanoma, sarcoma, GI and ovarian cancers. Our researchers work with tumour samples and study their protein and genetic make-up. We link these results with details on how treatment has worked for particular patients to work out who benefits most from any particular drug. It is known that different patients can respond in very different ways to the same treatment, and finding out more about this can help ensure that it is “tailored” to best suit, and treat, each individual.

Not only are we working with several other groups in Oxford, we also collaborate with groups further afield to find the right expertise needed to make cancer treatments more effective. Multidisciplinary collaboration and partnerships with other research centres are especially important when working on clinical trials to test new treatments as this allows resources and expertise to be joined together to the benefit of patients who are taking part, and to get answers faster.

The Cancer Theme draws on the incredible science within Oxford to bring about innovative treatments for patients.