Genetic chaos in tumours could help predict patients’ response to chemotherapy

Academy Starter Grant award holder Dr Nirupa Murugaesu, a Clinical Lecturer in Medical Oncology, saw the results of her research efforts published in the journal Cancer Discovery today.

Dr Murugaesu was part of a team of scientists from different institutions which analysed several tumour samples taken from different oesophageal cancer patients before and after chemotherapy.

The study, stemming from collaborative research work between scientists at the UCL Cancer Institute, where Dr Murugaesu is based, and the Francis Crick Institute,  found that most tumours showed a patchwork of genetic faults, and the more complicated this patchwork was, the more aggressive the cancer proved to be. The number of faults was also linked to the cancer's response to specific drugs.

This insight could help identify tumours that would benefit more from tailored approaches.

The study was funded by Cancer Research UK, the National Institute for Health Research and by the Academy's Starter Grant programme, which supported Dr Murugaesu.

"The starter grant enabled me to pursue this research and provided the funding for the sequencing of the oesophageal tumours.", said Dr Murugaesu,  " By studying the heterogeneity of oesophageal cancer both before and after chemotherapy we gathered valuable insight into how oesohageal cancers evolve over time and potential novel therapeutic strategies."

"In addition, this study examined the impact of chemotherapy treatment on these tumours and identified a pattern of mutation within the cancer cells that could have been driven by platinum chemotherapy, highlighting the need to identify patients who will not benefit from this treatment."

Starter Grants for Clinical Lecturers provide modest ‘starter’ funds to enable research active Clinical Lecturers to pursue their research work. The awards of up to £30,000 cover the cost of research consumables. Awardees also benefit from access to the Academy's one-to-one mentoring programme which pairs them with an Academy Fellow for career development support.

The scheme was launched in October 2008 as a partnership between the Academy and the Wellcome Trust, later joined by with the British Heart Foundation, Arthritis Research UK, the Medical Research Council, the Royal College of Physicians and Prostate Cancer UK.

So far we have supported approximately 299 Clinical Lecturers through twelve rounds of funding, with grants totalling nearly £8.5 million.

The next round of applications is open, and the application deadline is 17:00 on 01 September 2015.

Murugaesu N. et al, Tracking the genomic evolution of esophageal adenocarcinoma through neoadjuvant chemotherapy(link is external)Cancer Discovery (2015).

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