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PANDOX cancer researcher standing in front of a ultrasound machine

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.