Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Manchester set for key role in world-first lung cancer study

Scientists from the Paterson Institute are among those taking part Photo: ITV Granada Reports

Manchester is set to play a key role in a world-first Cancer Research UK study that will unlock lung cancer’s secrets.

The project, involving experts from The Christie, University Hospital South Manchester and the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research at the University of Manchester, will track how lung tumours develop and evolve in real time as patients receive treatment.

One of the largest ever studies of lung cancer patients globally, it will examine exactly how lung cancers mutate, adapt and become resistant to treatments.

The nine year, £14 million, UK wide study - called TRACERx (Tracking Cancer Evolution through Therapy) and launched today by Cancer Research UK - will receive one of the single biggest funding commitments to lung cancer. Researchers will recruit 850 lung cancer patients* from across the UK and take samples of their tumour before and following surgery and subsequently if the disease recurs.

Experts say: biopsies will be taken from different parts of each patient’s tumour and analysed with the latest technology to give a more comprehensive genetic profile.

Different parts of a tumour can evolve independently, so a sample from one region alone might contain different genetic changes to another sample, elsewhere in the tumour.

Lung cancer has been difficult to study as it can be hard to access and take samples of tumours. An earlier Cancer Research UK innovation means that patients will also have blood tests to examine DNA from the cancer that might be circulating in the bloodstream.

Researchers will then be able to compare genetic changes within and between patients, record how the treatment changes the genetic profile of their disease, and how this ultimately affects the patients’ chances of survival.

The combination of these techniques will give an unprecedented insight into lung cancer and allow researchers to identify and understand the precise genetic makeup of lung cancers. The results will also lay the foundations for being able to offer patients treatment that is tailored to the specific genetic makeup of their cancer.

This landmark study will bring together more than 65 lung cancer researchers in the UK, including oncologists, pathologists, laboratory researchers and technicians based in hospitals, universities and research institutes.

Other research centres taking part in the study are: University College London, Velindre Cancer Centre Cardiff, Birmingham University Hospital, Leicester Hospital and the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

University College London Hospital will be leading the thoracic surgery for the research.

Around 2,100 people are diagnosed with lung cancer in Greater Manchester every year.*

The disease has been difficult to study as it can be hard to access and take samples of tumours. An earlier Cancer Research UK innovation means that patients will also have blood tests to examine DNA from the cancer that might be circulating in the bloodstream.

Manchester Cancer Research Centre (MCRC) scientists will be analysing the samples using their wide experience of research in circulating tumour cells.

The combination of these techniques will give an unprecedented insight into lung cancer and allow researchers to identify and understand the precise genetic makeup of lung cancers. The results will also lay the foundations for being able to offer patients treatment that is tailored to the specific genetic makeup of their cancer.

This landmark study will bring together more than 65 lung cancer researchers in the UK, including oncologists, pathologists, laboratory researchers and technicians based in hospitals, universities and research institutes.

The study marks the start of a new Cancer Research UK initiative to beat lung cancer sooner which will also see the funding of a new centre of excellence in lung cancer research.

Scientific advances have helped more people survive cancer than ever before. But progress has not been consistent across all cancer types, and some have lagged behind.

One of these is lung cancer - which is the most common cause of cancer death in the UK, and only nine per cent of patients survive their disease beyond five years.

Professor Caroline Dive, Head of the Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology group at the Paterson Institute said: “We are delighted to work within this pioneering research consortium. Our studies on circulating tumour cells make us ideally placed to get the most information possible from each sample. One of our goals will be to develop blood tests to ensure that oncologists can select treatments optimally tailored to each individual lung cancer patient.”

Professor Richard Marais, Director of the Paterson Institute, said: “This extremely exciting study will allow us to provide personalised medicine for lung cancer patients.

“This approach will change treatment and outcomes for cancer patients in the UK and is exactly the type of ground-breaking research that scientists will be doing at the new Manchester Cancer Research Centre – bringing together a wide range of expertise to revolutionise cancer treatment.”

Dr Fiona Blackhall, Consultant Oncologist at The Christie and Manchester Cancer Research Centre Lung Group Lead, said: “In the North West of England lung cancer rates are particularly high. At The Christie and University Hospital South Manchester more than 1000 patients with lung cancer are treated each year. Many patients take part in research studies and trials of new treatments led by researchers of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre Lung Cancer Group. This will be the first time that we have joined forces with other lung cancer researchers in the UK to study the biology and genetics of lung cancer in depth. By working together, sharing our knowledge and expertise, we hope to speed up the discovery of new ways to tackle this devastating disease. “

Cancer Research UK plans to change this by investing heavily in lung cancer in the coming years. The new initiative will help focus attention on lung cancer and galvanise the research community, drawing in existing lung cancer experts and opening doors for new talent.

Cancer Research UK is the largest funder of cancer research in Manchester – spending more than £17 million on research last year.

Around 1,700 people die from lung cancer in Greater Manchester every year.**

The lung cancer incidence rate in Greater Manchester is higher than the England average.**

The lung cancer mortality rate in Greater Manchester is higher than the England average.

Professor Charlie Swanton, lead researcher based at Cancer Research UK’s London Research Institute and University College London, said: “Success in treating lung cancer has been difficult to achieve but we’re hoping to change that. The first step to improving cancer diagnosis and treatment is to understand more about the disease and how it changes over time. Research has led us to this point when, after decades of earlier work, we can look to the future with real optimism. We plan to harness new sequencing technologies to trace the genetic evolution of cancer over the course of the disease. Our research will help explain why lung cancer is difficult to treat, and steer a path towards saving more lives.”

Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “Lung cancer kills more people than any other type of cancer. We want to change this. For too long, success against the disease has been slow. We’re determined to unlock the secrets of the disease, to understand its biology, to develop more accurate tests to diagnose it and discover better treatments for people.

Around 42,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK every year, with around 35,000 deaths from the disease. TRACERx will help to improve the understanding of the disease and ultimately the outlook for patients and their families.

Dr Kumar added: “TRACERx is key to achieving a better outcome for lung cancer patients. Our researchers will revolutionise what we know of the disease, how we think about it and ultimately will help us to save lives. Our commitment to beating lung cancer is only possible with the generous support of people from across the UK.”