Dr Ramsay McFarlane is a Cancer Research Wales researcher that is currently being funded for work at Bangor University on bowel and lung cancer. At Cancer Research Wales, we asked him a series of questions to learn more about his life changing work and the reasons behind his studies.
- What area of cancer research do you focus on?
We have identified a new group of proteins that are not normally found in healthy cells of the body but can be produced by cancers. These proteins can drive the formation and evolution of the cancerous cells, and even contribute to causing treatment resistance. Importantly, these proteins are found in a number of different cancer types, including cancers that commonly occur in Wales, such as bowel cancer and lung cancer. Our research therefore covers several cancer types and we hope it will ultimately benefit a wide group of patients.
- What is your Cancer Research Wales project aiming to do in that area?
The proteins we have discovered are specific to cancer cells, which makes them very important as possible markers for the early detection of cancers and possible targets for the development of new drugs. Importantly, these drugs may not have many adverse side effects due to the specificity for cancer cells. We are aiming to exploit these newly identified proteins to create new tests and treatments that will offer clinicians more tools to reduce deaths from cancer in Wales and beyond. To facilitate this, our Cancer Research Wales funding is enabling a senior medical oncologist to be fully integrated into our research team, making the application of our findings to the clinic more likely.
- Have there been any key achievements to the project?
We have achieved several exciting developments. Firstly, one of the proteins we have identified has now been revealed to be a very clear marker for early cancer detection and a possible therapeutic target, and we are moving forward with work on this protein as rapidly as possible. Secondly, Cancer Research Wales funded research, with our partners Dr Jane Wakeman and Prof Andrea Brancale (Cardiff University), identified drugs that could serve as the basis for a new treatment targeting one of the proteins we have discovered. This part of our research was recognised by the prestigious Alderley Park Oncology Development accelerator programme, which has resulted in the establishment of a new commercial oncology venture in Wales that will enable us to develop a rapid pathway to bring this treatment to patients as soon as possible.
- Why did you become a Cancer Research Wales researcher?
Cancer Research Wales has been integral in ensuring that Wales remains a focal point for key contributions in the global fight against cancers. The expertise and vision within Cancer Research Wales serves as an important and unique enabler for the development of new therapeutics and technologies for the treatment of cancer. Importantly, Cancer Research Wales takes a direct, hands on approach to working with us, which has enabled us to bring senior clinicians and scientists together to create a true synergy for patient benefits, and this is why we view Cancer Research Wales as our most important partner in ensuring that the people of Wales benefit from high calibre clinical science now and in the future.
- Do you have a personal connection to cancer?
Sadly, our own families and current team members have been touched by cancer. Also, the Cancer Research Wales funded project we are currently running funds a senior regional oncologist, so we all have direct and frequent exposure to the devastation that cancer brings to all our lives. It is for this reason that we value the input of Cancer Research Wales and all the funders, as we can see that basic research is resulting in new therapies, and whilst cancer is a complex adversary, we can see hope emerging from research.
- Is there anything you would like to say to our supporters?
Yes, thank you. Cancers will be conquered and managed through a collective team effort. The most important members of the team fighting cancer are you, the fundraisers. Without your hard work there would be no cancer research.