Queen Mary scientists get grants for ‘breakthrough’ pancreatic cancer research

Three scientists in London’s East End have received £540,000 between them for further ground-breaking research into pancreatic cancer “on the cusp of breakthroughs”.

They have each been given £180,000 grants by the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund for their work at the University of London’s Queen Mary medical research centre at Whitechapel.

Senior lecturer Dr Thorsten Hagemann is undertaking a three-year study into the role of regulatory B cells in suppressing the body’s immune response, which have been found to lead to tumour growth in animals—he aims to confirm what role the cells play in humans.

Molecular oncology expert Dr Yaohe Wang starts a two-year project to engineer the Vaccinia virus, which has been safely used to prevent smallpox, to test if it can kill pancreatic cancer tumours and leave healthy tissue unharmed.

Tumour biology specialist Dr John Marshall begins a three-year programme following previous research that identified a molecule found on the surface of cancerous pancreatic cells that invades healthy tissues—he discovered antibodies to stop the virus working properly, which prevented them growing.

The research fund’s founder, Maggie Blanks, said: “There’s a feeling in the research community that we’re on the cusp of making breakthroughs that will finally start to improve the prognosis of this cancer.”

Around 8,500 people in Britain are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year, the trust points out. They are difficult to treat because symptoms generally appear at an advanced stage. Just three per cent survive five years or more, which has barely improved in 40 years.

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