Some pretty astonishing research has been carried out at my old alma mater, the University of Leeds, but none more so than the latest ground-breaking work in treatment for brain cancer.
Susan Short, the Professor of Clinical Oncology and Neuro-oncology, says, “I tend to shy away from the world ‘cure’ but this is the most exciting potential treatment I’ve seen in my career.”
The Leeds discovery will revolutionise cancer treatment, and means, in theory, that brain cancer can be cured with a simple injection. Professor Short is now leading the attempt to fund the final stage of the research from alumni.
The team’s approach utilises a virus to turn on the body’s own immune system to fight one of the deadliest forms of cancer and one which has seen very few advances in treatment in recent years. It’s a deceptively simple theory. Cancer hides from the immune system. When the virus infects tumour cells (see the diagram above), the immune system recognises the virus and is switched on to fight the cells.
The key is to use a virus that’s essentially harmless to the rest of the body, but is toxic to cancer cells. This delivers a double blow to the cancer – the virus and the immune system both attack cancer cells.
Until now the only way to get these therapies into the brain was through surgery. But the Leeds breakthrough uses a simple injection into the bloodstream, which sends the virus directly to the brain tumour.
Leeds is the only UK university researching this treatment, and it has the experts and facilities in place to see it through to completion once the latest tranche of funding has been complete. The alumni research fund can be found here.