Physical Sciences & Drug Discovery
Based across the city of Oxford, researchers are developing cutting-edge technologies that integrate analytical and engineering science, to better treat and diagnose cancer patients.
The application of technologies based on analytical and engineering science has revolutionised our understanding of disease and our ability to detect and treat it. As new technologies emerge from fundamental scientific advances, exploring new opportunities to develop them into scientific and clinical tools is crucial to expanding the limits of our knowledge.
It’s difficult to predict where new technologies and breakthroughs will emerge, but Oxford expertise in drug delivery, wearable technologies, structural biology, drug discovery, and analytical science are well placed to have particular relevance to cancer and its treatment. How developments in these fields can be applied to the challenges of cancer research is an ongoing priority for Oxford Cancer researchers.
The diverse community of physical and engineering scientists in Oxford is spread across the city with hubs in the Department of Chemistry, Target Discovery Institute, Division of Structural Biology, Institute for Biomedical Engineering, Centre for Medicines Discovery, Rosalin Franklin Institute, Centre Drug Delivery Devices and Population Health.
Oxford researchers who are leading in these fields are working with clinicians and biologists to answer biological questions and improve patient care. See our Novel Therapeutics and Immuno-oncology themes to find out more about how the below expertise is seeking to achieve this.
One of the challenges of treating cancer patients with drugs or biological/cell therapies is applying them in a way that preferentially exposes the tumour and limits toxicity in healthy tissue. In Oxford, researchers are applying a range of physical science and engineering principles to devise novel ways to deliver drugs to tumours in a more targeted manner. Examples include the use of ultrasound to overcome the increased interstitial hydrostatic pressure found in tumours and microparticles to cross the blood brain barrier. Applying technology in this way allows the delivery of cancer drugs and diagnostic agents to sites that they would normally be excluded from, whilst protecting normal cells.
Technology that enables frequent or automated monitoring of physical activity (such as movement or sleep), physiological readings (blood pressure, blood oxygen, or circadian rhythms) and psychological information (mood or behaviour) allows the collection of a large amount of data without a healthcare visit. Collecting this large quantity of data, analysing it and correlating with clinical outcomes, allows researchers to learn more about a range of diseases, their development and treatment.
Chemotherapy remains one of the more common treatment options for cancer patients. By understanding more about fundamental cancer biology, we can identify tumour weaknesses to exploit through targeted therapies. Translating these opportunities into drugs is a lengthy and expensive process that involves a range of scientific disciplines including target identification and structure determination, medicinal chemistry and lead optimisation, high-throughput screening and toxicity prediction. New techniques that improve the efficiency and accuracy of these processes are being developed across Oxford to enable more effective drugs to be developed faster and at a lower cost.
Analytical scientists focus on developing new technologies which can improve our ability to measure the composition, structure and morphology of structures from the atomic to organism scales. Technologies that allow us to capture accurate, specific or complex images are critical to developing novel diagnostic strategies, as well as guiding surgical and radiation therapy. The development of sensitive and specific molecular platforms is also pushing the boundaries of our ability to detect cancer at earlier stages.
In this theme
• Drug Delivery Technologies
• Wearables Technology
• Structural Biology & Drug Discovery
• Analytical Science