Aiming to catch cancer earlier and improve treatment options for patients.
Our vision for the Multi-Modal Cancer Therapies (MCT) theme is to harness Oxford’s world-leading scientific and clinical expertise to develop preventative and curative strategies for cancer patients. We seek to improve patient outcomes by:
- preventing the progression from pre-malignant conditions to cancer through enhancing early detection and diagnosis of cancer
- developing novel curative therapeutic strategies through better targeting, and enhancing the efficacy of immunotherapies.
Preventing Progression & Early Detection and Diagnosis
Many deaths from cancer could be prevented if the disease is diagnosed earlier because standard treatments of many tumours is often successful when applied to earlier stage disease. The Multi-Modal Cancer Therapies theme efforts to exploit this observation by:
- Applying the latest diagnostic technologies to identify changes in molecules within cancer cells that might predict the earliest stages of cancer. In partnership with the Gastroenterology & Mucosal Immunity theme we are applying a new laboratory test (TAPS) that measures the amount and “methylation state” of tumour released DNA in patient blood samples to detect cancer earlier.
- Developing strategies for preventing progression in populations that are at higher risk of developing cancer. For most of the cancers of the digestive tract, there are non-cancer conditions that place individuals at higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer. These patients are routinely screened. Although this process catches some cancers earlier, some are missed and the vast majority of individuals in these expensive programmes never progress, so are needlessly worried. In collaboration with researchers from the Imaging, Molecular Diagnostics and Gastroenterology themes, we are applying a range of strategies to streamline and enhance the efficacy of these screening approaches. These efforts are based around the integration of artificial intelligence algorithms to both endoscopic and histological image analysis for improved accuracy and precision of clinical decision making.
Enhanced Application of Immune-therapies
A promising new treatment for other cancers, called ‘immunotherapy’, harnesses the patient’s own immune system to fight the tumour. The challenge with immunotherapy is that it is very effective for some patients but not others, and we don’t understand why. Our researchers are developing new approaches for predicating which patients do and do not respond to these treatments in order that:
- Clinicians can target only those patients who are likely to benefit. In partnership with the Gastroenterology & Mucosal Immunity theme we are running a study that seeks to understand which and why some oesophageal cancer patients (for which there are relatively few curative treatments available) respond.
- Scientists can come up with new approaches to increase the efficacy of immunotherapy in patients that have not previously responded. We are working with the Vaccines theme to develop combinations of vaccines that enable a patient’s immune system to recognise and destroy cancer cells.
- New immunotherapies can be rapidly implemented into clinical practice. In collaboration with the Haematology & Stem Cells theme we are working to prove the efficacy of new therapies for wider implementation.
As part of the activities for the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre Open Day, Professor Adrian Harris, University of Oxford, Department of Oncology, talks about new ways to treat cancer.