Samra Turajlic, group leader at the Francis Crick Institute and Consultant at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust has been awarded over £2,300,000 to fund two projects looking to identify weaknesses in cancer progression.
“These grants will help us to better understand the growth and spread of cancers - and importantly, where there are vulnerabilities in these processes. If we can find these weaknesses, we could target them with new treatments, and give patients the best chance of beating their disease,” says Samra.
Why cancer growth differs
In a grant from the US National Institute of Health (NIH), Samra’s team will receive close to $2 million over four years for a project studying cancer growth.
The team will work with NIH to study Von Hippel-Lindau disease. People with this disease develop multiple tumours and malignant cysts over their lifetime, including a type of kidney cancer. These tumours and cysts grow at different rates.
Using patient data which has been collected over the last 30 years by the NIH’s Professor Marston Linehan, the researchers aim to find out why these tumours form in some parts of the body but not others, and also why some of these tumours grow faster than others.
“We’ll be looking at the cases of 700 patients who inherited this disease, trying to understand what it is about tumours and their surrounding environments which means they progress at different rates,” explains Samra.
Targeting cancer spread
Working with both patients at the Royal Marsden and data and samples gathered through the Melanoma TRACERx and PEACE programmes, the team will study how melanomas spread to form tumours in other parts of the body. They want to understand more about the timing and pattern of this spread and are aiming to identify common weaknesses in this process, which could be targeted by new treatments.
“For patients with late stage melanoma, their cancer will often develop resistance to all current targeted and immune-therapies. We urgently need to find out more about the spread of this cancer in order to time and choose our treatments in a way that will maximise cancer control or prevent the melanoma spreading in the first place,” adds Samra.