Mark Adair

North East Innovation Lab secures Cancer Research UK funding

The team of North East Innovation Lab scientists have secured a share of £218k funding for a consortium project to develop a new diagnostic for the early detection of pancreatic cancer.

The award is jointly supported by from Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for a project is in collaboration with University College London, University of Bristol, University of Surrey and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust to develop an assay to detect pancreatic cancer in its early stages.

Currently pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect until an advanced stage which reduces treatment options for patients and can mean the cancer is incurable. In early-stage pancreatic cancer biomarkers called ctDNA are released in tiny quantities into the blood stream, but they are difficult to detect. The project is developing methods to amplify the signal from the biomarkers to make them more detectable.

The team a at the North East Innovation Lab, part of Newcastle Hospitals will evaluate the assay which is being developed by the collaborators and verify its performance.

Amanda Winter, diagnostic evaluation healthcare specialist at the innovation lab attended a Cancer Research UK Early Detection Innovation Workshop where she was joined by a whole host of specialists across academia, research, NHS primary and secondary care, nanotech and biotech to discuss early detection ideas.

She said: “This is a really exciting project to be involved in which could have a far-reaching impact for patients with pancreatic cancer. This particular cancer usually presents at a late stage meaning treatment is limited and the cancer is often incurable. Developing a new diagnostic for early detection has potential to make the cancer more treatable and help save lives.”

Dr Alexis Webb, research programme manager for early detection at Cancer Research UK said: “With the support of MRC and EPSRC, our innovation workshops bring together a variety of disciplines and approaches to tackle the tough challenges we face in being able to detect cancer in its earliest stages.

“The project team has proposed a creative idea to try to improve the detection of pancreatic cancer, which is notoriously hard to treat and has been identified by Cancer Research UK as a cancer of unmet need. While the work is still in a conceptual phase, we are excited by the potential to amplify the early signals of pancreatic cancer to make it more detectable.” 

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