North West Cancer Research has given a Liverpool-based research project the go ahead thanks to £200,000 worth of grant funding.
Around 200 people a year are diagnosed with head and neck cancers in Liverpool. In some areas of the city you are more than twice as likely to develop these types of cancers, than anywhere else in the UK.
The three-year research project will look at the effectiveness of new treatments for head and neck cancer patients. It will bring together a multidisciplinary team of surgeons, medical oncologists and scientists.
About the science
Most head and neck cancer patients are treated with a combination of surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy drugs. This type of combination treatment can cause significant side effects. Relapse is also found in around half of all cases.
Dr Shankar Varadarajan will lead a team of experts from the University of Liverpool, who will work on the project. They will look at how a new drug, BH3 mimetics, could develop more effective and targeted treatments for head and neck cancers.
BH3 mimetics drugs are used to successfully treat various types of blood cancers. The drug works by targeting specific proteins in the body that enable cancer cells to survive. Early experiments have shown these new drugs have the potential to kill head and neck cancer cells.
The research team will now test these findings using patient samples. A team of Liverpool-based medical oncologists will examine the samples and consider the effect the drug has on them.
Shankar explains: “The alarming statistics surrounding head and neck cancers highlight the need to develop more specific treatments. New treatments which will reduce side effects and prevent relapses."
“We hope that our research will lead to the development of a more effective approach to the treatment of head and neck cancers. Depending on our findings, the next steps will be to move our research to clinical trials. We want to look at the effects in real-life patient environments.”
North West Cancer Research funding at the University of Liverpool
North West Cancer Research supported Dr Varadarajan in the early stages of his research with a £135,000 grant in February 2015. Now they will fund a further £192,243 over the next three years. This funding will support a post-doctoral researcher, consumables and equipment.
North West Cancer Research are funding over £8 million worth of research at the University of Liverpool, over the next five years.
Research supported by the charity includes:
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