Having received an award from the LIBOR funds, a new centre is to be set up to further research mesothelioma with a view to working towards finding a cure. Imperial College London’s National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI) is a leading international centre for lung research. There is a consensus that not enough funds have been put into mesothelioma research and a concerted effort needed to be made, given that this is a disease which leads to 2,500 deaths a year in the UK. From experience, the Imperial College believes that, to find new treatments, research spend should be as high as £5m a year. They believe that an integrated programme carried out on a national basis is the best way forward. Research in this area has been neglected and is only at a very early stage.
The Imperial College London has been chosen given its experience. It is also adjacent to the Royal Marsden Hospital and the Institute for Cancer Research which are also seen as world leaders in the treatment of and research into cancer. The College has already been carrying out research into mesothelioma and now intends to combine clinical and scientific expertise to advance this. They have already discovered several new mutations in cases of mesothelioma but they are yet to identify the primary drivers of tumour growth.
Cancer research is renowned for breakthroughs in diagnosis and treatment and many forms of cancer which were previously incurable are now treatable. This is mainly down to the fact that the Human Genome Project has made it possible to identify the mutated or corrupted genes that drive cancer growth and allow the growth and spread of cancer cells to be systematically studied.
It is intended that the Centre, taking a genomic approach, will lead to more effective screening for earlier diagnosis and prevention of disease in individuals at increased risk of the disease, for example, those carrying the mutation of the BAP1 gene. These individuals are already known to be susceptible to mesothelioma.
The Centre will also look at ways to predict the clinical course of patients from the time they present together with effective treatments to eliminate or control the growth of tumours. The best ways to treat each individual will be considered taking into account the particular genes driving the growth of the tumour and which patients will respond to immunotherapy.
The Centre needs to be a multidisciplinary set-up with experts in various fields working together. It needs to capitalise on the clinical networks which the UK mesothelioma community (charities, support groups, health care professionals, scientists and patients) has been successfully building. Access to tumour samples will be vital and this needs to come from clinicians, patient organisations and biobanks.
Professors Anne Bowcock, Miriam Moffatt and Bill Cookson will lead discovery research at the Centre, aimed at the underlying mechanisms of mesothelioma and lung cancer. The structure and management of the Centre will be overseen by an advisory group chaired by Professor Sir Anthony Newman Taylor.
It is planned that the Centre will be one part of much larger clinical and research activities already taking place in the UK.
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