By developing new therapies and improving the utilisation of existing ones, Oxford researchers are improving the outcomes for cancer patients worldwide.
50% of patients diagnosed with cancer can expect to be cured or live for over 10 years, due to a combination of surgery, radiation therapy and various medications. Optimising the application and combination of existing therapies, and developing new ones, will be key to continuing to improve cancer cure rates. When Oxford’s cancer research expertise has been historically applied in this setting, it has transformed patient outcomes globally. For example, key cancer research successes originating from Oxford include:
- Therapies targeting tumour specific hypoxia and angiogenesis (Sir Peter Ratcliffe, Christopher Schofield, Adrian Harris)
- Targeting radiation therapy making it safer for breast cancer patients (Sarah Darby)
- The clinical application of numerous curative immune-oncology agents including IDO inhibitors (Benoit van den Eynde)
By coordinating research through this theme, Oxford Cancer seeks to ensure that insights from fundamental scientific advances are used to improve cancer treatments. Our approach for maximum patient benefit is to ensure that experts in the major treatment modalities (surgery, radiation therapy and medicine) are informed by our cutting edge understanding of cancer biology and underpinned by the most advanced technologies.
Find out more about the challenges Oxford cancer researchers are addressing in this theme below.
What are the challenges we are tackling?
1. Improving surgery
Surgical oncology research in Oxford is undertaken through a number of scientific disciplines including surgeons, molecular biologists, pathologists, engineers, bioinformaticians, and statisticians. Oxford Cancer researchers are focused on key malignancies including Prostate, Colorectal, Breast, Brain, and Head & Neck cancers, with the aim of seeking the optimal balance between cancer removal, surrounding organ function preservation and quality of life. Research programmes range from the use of robotics and minimally invasive techniques that reduce the side-effects and recovery times of surgery, to the use of novel imaging platforms and technologies to guide surgeons during operations.
2. Improving radiotherapy
Oxford is home to a large multi-disciplinary group of radiation-based researchers. These include clinical oncologists, molecular biologists, medical physicists, and mathematicians working on all aspects of improving the efficacy of radiation therapy, whilst limiting the damage that is done to nearby healthy tissue. There are multiple approaches to achieving this including developing methods that specifically sensitise tumours to radiation, using AI algorithms to automate radiation therapy dosing planning implementation of novel limited-high-dose platforms and optimising treatment choices by detailed risk-benefit analysis.
3. Targeting drug delivery
As cancer therapeutics become more potent and more targeted, the barriers presented by tumour physiology make it increasingly difficult for larger molecules to reach each and every cancer cell to fulfil their therapeutic potential. Researchers in the Oxford Centre for Drug Delivery Devices are seeking to address this challenge by developing stimuli responsive systems that enable either free or encapsulated drugs to be selectively released or preferentially propelled within a target region. Several early phase clinical studies across liver (TARDOX), pancreatic (PanDox) and metastastic colorectal (CEeDD) cancer are ongoing to demonstrate the potential of these stimulus-responsive strategies to maximise drug uptake, reduce the risk of side effects and maximise the likelihood of successful treatment
4. Developing new medicines
Oxford is home to a comprehensive array of world-leading infrastructure dedicated to the discovery, translation and clinical testing of novel medicines. Expertise and facilities to develop basic science discovery into novel therapeutic agents include the Target Discovery Institute, Centre for Medicines Discovery, Division of Structural Biology, and Chemistry Research Laboratory. World-class trials units with expertise spanning Primary Care, Cancer Epidemiology, large cohorts (Clinical Trials Service Unit & Early Breast Cancer Trialists Collaborative Group), and early phase clinical studies (Oncology Clinical Trials Office and EPCTU) are available to clinically test new approaches, and drive reverse translation.