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$16.8 million study will breathe new life into cancer battle

University of Manchester scientists are among a multinational collaborative group to have been awarded 12 million for cancer research by the European Union.

The research will focus on tumour hypoxia, which describes an oxygen-deprived state that is common to all solid tumours.

Hypoxia causes a huge problem in cancer therapy because hypoxic cells are resistant to radiotherapy and most forms of chemotherapy; as a result, patients with hypoxic tumours respond less well to treatment.

Furthermore, hypoxia also appears to increase the chance that a tumour will spread and form metastases in other parts of the body. If a tumour begins to spread to other areas it becomes much more difficult to treat and so most cancer-related deaths are associated with metastases.

Recent advances in biological research have meant that there is now a greater understanding of the process of metastasis and why hypoxia plays such a key role. The researchers in this study aim to build on these advances and translate biological findings into clinically relevant treatments that will ultimately lead to improved patient response.

The Manchester team, led by Dr Kaye Williams in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, will investigate how hypoxia changes cell behaviour and makes them more likely to metastasise. The scientists will then examine how these events can be targeted using specific therapies.

Further collaborative studies will attempt to develop novel ways of identifying patients with hypoxic tumours, which will mean their anti-cancer treatment can be tailored towards their specific tumour type.

"Working alongside our internationally leading colleagues within the rest of the research consortium, there is a huge opportunity to develop new therapies and imaging strategies that will benefit many cancer patients with solid malignancies," said Dr Williams.

"Hypoxia causes huge problems in the effective treatment of many cancers, so understanding how it alters the behaviour of cells will be a major breakthrough and should help us to develop therapeutic interventions that will make tumours less deadly."


Contact: Aeron Haworth
University of Manchester

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