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Multi-million funded experiments could lead to revolution in cancer treatment

Visit  Science and Technology Facilities Council website King's College London website

9 March 2009

Scientists will today (09 March) begin work funded by a £4.5M grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to research new cancer drugs.

The team from the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, along with colleagues from King’s College London, will use state-of-the-art laser microscopes to examine a class of receptor molecules in closer detail than has previously been possible.

The sensitivity of the microscopes to individual molecules is combined with a new laser cluster which allows several molecular species to be lit up simultaneously. Together with state-of-the-art computational input from Oxford and Cambridge, this means for the first time, the individual behaviours of many different proteins will be examined within the context of their surroundings. This is vital for building up a high resolution picture of how protein networks allow cancerous cells to replicate in the body and to address how interactions with drugs influence these molecular processes.

By examining as many as a hundred different molecular species and their interactions in living cells, the scientists hope to create a network model, representative of all receptor associated molecular activity. The scientists ultimately hope to classify patients according to the characteristics of their protein network interactions, so that predictions can be made about which drugs will be effective for particular patients. At the moment the effectiveness of available drugs on individuals is not predicted.

Peter Parker, Head of the Division of Cancer Studies at King’s College London and Principal Investigator at King’s on this project said; ‘The new targeted therapeutics in cancer promise a great deal in the clinic. However, on an individual patient basis, we are a long way from knowing exactly who will benefit and who will not. Understanding how particular drug targets behave at a fundamental molecular level and ultimately developing ways of monitoring this behaviour in tumours will impact enormously on the personalised medicine agenda’.

Marisa Martin-Fernandez – the STFC’s Principal Investigator for the work says;
‘It is like detective work … we will keep under surveillance families of proteins engaging with each other to find out when and how the wrong family members take control in cancer’.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

Please note this is an early stage in the scientific experiment. The experiments starting on Monday are the first to take place at RAL. They are initial experiments using funding from the STFC and King’s College London, before the main work using the grant from the BBSRC starts in September. The data will be analysed by Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

Images

Please contact the STFC press office for more details.

About King's College London

King’s College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (Times Higher Education 2008) and the fourth oldest in England. A research-led university based in the heart of London, King’s has 19,700 students from more than 150 countries, and 5,400 employees. An investment of over £500 million has been made in the redevelopment of its estate in recent years.

King’s has an outstanding reputation for providing world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise for British universities, 23 departments were ranked in the top quartile of British universities; over half of our academic staff work in departments that are in the top 10 per cent in the UK in their field and can thus be classed as world leading. The College is in the top group of UK universities for research earnings and has an overall annual income of approximately £450 million.

King’s has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, the sciences (including a wide range of health areas such as psychiatry, medicine and dentistry) and social sciences including international affairs. It has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA and research that led to the development of radio, television, mobile phones and radar. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe; no university has more Medical Research Council Centres.

King's College London and Guy's and St Thomas', King's College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trusts are working together to create King’s Health Partners - a world-leading Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC).  King’s Health Partners brings together an unrivalled range and depth of clinical and research expertise, spanning both physical and mental health. Our combined strengths will drive improvements in care for patients, allowing them to benefit from breakthroughs in medical science and receive leading edge treatment at the earliest possible opportunity. 

For more information, visit http://www.kcl.ac.uk/

About BBSRC

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £420M in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. BBSRC carries out its mission by funding internationally competitive research, providing training in the biosciences, fostering opportunities for knowledge transfer and innovation and promoting interaction with the public and other stakeholders on issues of scientific interest in universities, centres and institutes.

External contact

Lucy Stone, Press Officer, STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

tel: 01235 445627

Contact

Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299

Tracey Jewitt, Media Officer

tel: 01793 414694
fax: 01793 413382