Genomics Project Update
The latest developments with Debbie Fund’s genomics research have revealed how different patterns of modification to DNA in cervical cancers may be used to predict the prognosis for the patient. In the past year our researchers have profiled the patterns of DNA modification in 100 patients with cervical cancer, analysing differences from healthy cells. This is the first such study of this size and it is guiding us towards ways to identify particularly aggressive tumours from those that respond well to treatment. This could help doctors to better tailor treatment to individual patients based on the molecular profile of their tumour.
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Research into treatments for cervical cancer continues to be very encouraging and work on antibodies developed by the Debbie Fund team has now been published and presented at International conferences. Test tube studies showing that the Debbie Fund antibodies inhibit the migration of cancer cells have been particularly exciting. The figure illustrates an experiment where cervical cancer cells were allowed to move for 24 hours towards a nutrient. The left panel shows that many cells reached the nutrient (blue stained nuclei). In strong contrast, if a Debbie Fund antibody is added (right hand panel), very few cells reached the nutrient.
Early testing also suggests that the new antibodies do reach target cancer cells and, as planned, we are now investigating the potential of using the antibodies as a means of delivering a toxic payload direct to the cancer cells, either by attaching radio isotopes (for targeted radio immunotherapy) or toxins to the antibodies.
This ground breaking work continues apace. Debbie Fund researchers have recently published early findings about how the blueprint stored in our DNA becomes corrupted, leading to the development of cervical cancer. We are now trying to learn more about this process, and how this knowledge could help us to identify individuals at increased risk of developing cervical cancer.
In a complementary approach, working in collaboration with UCL’s Prof Martin Widschwendter, we are looking at the epigenetics of cervical cancer - that is the chemical modifications in DNA, which can precede changes in the DNA sequence itself. These changes could alert us to a developing cancer long before it would be detectable by current screening methods, such as the pap smear.
Previous Research News
Debbie Fund’s first dedicated researcher, Dr. Enrique Miranda Rota, from the UCL Cancer Institute, is now collaborating with the Therapeutic Antibody Group at Medical Research Council Technology (MRCT) to develop new antibodies that bind to cervical cancer cell-surface targets and which have the potential to be used in new treatments for cervical cancer. Enrique is testing several variants of each antibody, produced by grafting specific gene sequence modifications to the antibodies.
“We are absolutely delighted with the progress of this Debbie Fund supported project” said Prof Kerry Chester and Dr Tim Meyer, the project’s lead investigators. “Generating antibodies in collaboration with MRCT brings us a significant step closer to a new treatment for patients with cervical cancers”.
The aim of this antibody project is to provide a new means of delivering a toxic payload, either radioactive or chemical, direct to cervical cancer tumour cells without damaging surrounding healthy cells- a “magic bullet” for cervical cancer.
As research work investigating a new treatment for cervical cancer continues to advance, Debbie Fund's antibody work is gaining knowledge and momentum; Debbie Fund investigators Prof Kerry Chester and Dr Rota have been invited to present their work at various international biotechnology conferences.