Led by Professor Constantin Coussios and Professor Richard Bryant
Our work in this sub-theme encompasses immunomodulation: disrupting tumour cells to alter immune responses; and neuromodulation with repair, which involves deep-brain stimulation technology to ‘repair’ neurological disorders.
Although many patients treated for cancer generate marked and sustained responses, not all tumours respond equally. Immunotherapy promises to be a watershed in treating solid tumours.
Professors Bryant and Coussios have used focused ultrasound combined with a new generation of nanoparticles – a new and effective way of delivering drugs – to modify the immunogenicity of prostate cancer, that is to alter the tumour’s ability to induce an immune response that can prevent its growth or even shrink it.
We are now conducting first-in-human studies to test safety and the response of prostate cancers, and expanding this work to colorectal cancer, liver metastases and pancreatic cancer.
Oxford is the only centre testing this highly innovative immunomodulation approach, which uses a device to make tumours more susceptible to an immune response. This could potentially redefine treatment options for many solid organ tumours.
Neuromodulation and repair
Oxford neurosurgeons have developed a novel bioelectronic stimulator, called DyNeuMo, to ‘repair’ neurological disorders. This is based on deep-brain stimulation technology, which involves implanting electrodes in parts of the brain to provoke electrical impulses, and is used to treat a number of conditions, including Parkinson’s disease and dystonia.
We have good evidence that this technology is successful in certain conditions, and we are now investigating which other pathologies can be treated and tailoring it accordingly.
We are initially evaluating the safety and effectiveness of DyNeuMo by conducting first-in-human studies with a view to using this technology in a range of conditions, including stimulating the phrenic nerve to help patients who have difficulty breathing after traumatic brain injury.
We are also looking at whether this technology can reduce side-effects – and costs to the NHS – when applied to multiple system atrophy, mixed incontinence, and non-invasive intervention after peripheral nerve surgery.