2017 Grants


Dr Mererid Evans and Professor John Staffurth, Velindre Cancer Centre – Programme Grant

Project Title: PEARL: PET-based Adaptive Radiotherapy Clinical Trial

Amount: £720,000 (Joint Funded with Velindre Fundraising, MoonDance Committee)

Duration: 60 months


Radiotherapy, combined with chemotherapy, is the key treatment for the cure of Head and Neck cancer. Relapses in these patients often occur at or near the site of the original cancer, so an attractive option is to increase the radiation dose to more effectively treat and manage the disease. This exciting 5-year trial, co-funded with Velindre Fundraising, aims to build upon award winning PET-based medical imaging research previously sponsored by Cancer Research Wales, and will allow clinicians to safely increase the dose of radiation to the part of the tumour where relapse is most likely to occur. It is hoped this improved targeting of tumours will lead to improved survival in patients.


Dr Alex Tonks, Cardiff University – PhD studentship

Project Title: The role of RUNX3 in Acute Myeloid Leukaemia and normal human haematopoietic Development and the role of S100A4 in Acute Myeloid Leukaemia

Amount: £109,301

Duration: 36 months


Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is characterised by the inability of immature blood cells to develop normally, and its variability as a disease makes it difficult to treat. Long-term survival of patients with AML is poor and the only prospect for improved outcomes is the development of treatments that target key molecules that the abnormal and immature cancerous blood cells rely on for survival.  RUNX3 is one such molecule, and thought to be of critical significance for AML progression. Surprisingly, there is no information regarding its exact influence in the development of leukaemic cells in AML.  This study will determine how gain or loss of RUNX3 function can promote leukaemia and may allow current therapies to be more effective, and therefore reduce the overall healthcare burden of this disease.


Professor Clare Wilkinson, Bangor University – Post-doctoral position

Project Title: Diagnostic journeys in prostate cancer (DJiP)

Amount: £99,768

Duration: 36 months


Men diagnosed with prostate cancer tend to have a longer diagnostic journey than those diagnosed with other cancers. Symptoms of prostate cancer may develop over time and some patient’s experience symptoms up to one year prior to diagnosis; while others are without symptoms. Early diagnosis of aggressive prostate cancers, whilst avoiding over-treatment of men with more indolent disease is vital, yet extremely challenging. This project aims to describe, in detail, the ways in which men with prostate cancer are diagnosed from their first experience of symptoms or blood testing, and to identify all the factors and influences that contribute to this diagnostic journey. The project will undertake a detailed survey with newly diagnosed prostate cancer patients, GPs and their urologists. This information will then be analysed by the research group at Bangor and used to identify best practice recommendations to aid the recognition of men with symptoms to ensure effective diagnosis of prostate cancer.



Dr Wei Xiao-Qing, Cardiff University – PhD studentship

Project Title: Regulation of anti-tumour Immunity by the novel cytokine IL-35 in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas

Amount: £99,821

Duration: 36 months

Head and neck cancer is the sixth most common malignancy worldwide and despite advancements in its treatment, 5-year survival rates, rarely exceed 60%. The survival of cancer cells is dependent on their ability to escape the body’s own immune system, and they develop ways to avoid recognition and destruction by cancer killing immune cells. However, the mechanisms by which cancer cells do this remains poorly understood. This work will focus on an immune regulator known as interleukin 35 (IL-35), which can be produced by cancer cells and thought to be important in preventing the body’s own immune system from recognising and destroying cancer cells. Also it is proposed that Interleukin 35 can promote cancer growth and spread of tumour cells to other organs in the body. A complete understanding of IL-35 in cancer progression will help to devise new treatments that can block the action of IL-35, to improve survival of patients with head and neck cancer.




Dr Jason Webber, Cardiff University – PhD studentship

Project Title: The Role of heparan sulphate proteoglycans in exosome-mediated growth factor delivery & prostate tumour growth

Amount: £98,191

Duration: 36 months


Cancers have very intricate communication systems and can influence the biological behaviour of normal tissues and organs, both in the local vicinity, or at distances from the original tumour. One mechanism by which cancer cells are able to impart such properties is through the release of highly specialised lipid droplets, known as exosomes, which are armed with a variety of molecules that is able to control biological processes around the body, following their release into the blood. This project will seek to understand the ways by which exosomes work and drive disease progression in prostate cancer. By interfering with the structural integrity of exosomes, Dr Webber, and his team hope to develop a therapeutic strategy that can specifically target exosomes to halt prostate cancer.




Dr Steve Man, Cardiff University – PhD studentship

Project Title: The Role of CD4+ T cell subsets in disease progression and response to treatment in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia

Amount: £90,764

Duration: 36 months


Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) is the most common type of leukaemia in the UK. This is a disease, where a type of white blood cell known as B cells, have become cancerous. CLL patients also have problems with other white blood cells called T cells, which protect the body against infection and development of cancer. Dr Steve Man and his team have recently discovered that CLL patients with high numbers of a particular type of T cell (CD4 T cell) were more likely to have advanced disease. It is not yet clear what role these CD4 T cells play in the disease. This project will use a variety of techniques to answer this question and address whether the numbers of these T cells can also predict which patients will respond best to treatment.



Drs Rhiannon French and Richard Clarkson, Cardiff University – Post-doctoral position

Project Title: Investigating a novel therapeutic approach to prevent tumour plasticity in breast cancer

Amount: £131,611

Duration: 24 months


Despite improved treatments which can shrink or even eradicate tumours, a significant number of breast cancer patients will relapse, due to the tumour spreading “seeds” (also referred to as cancer stem cells) to different parts of the body. A single breast tumour is made up of many different cell types, and although only a small number will have ‘seed-like’ properties, a large number of other cells are capable of acquiring these adverse properties under the right conditions. This study which builds on previous Cancer Research Wales funding, will aim to investigate the potential for a new anti-cancer agent developed in the laboratory of Dr Richard Clarkson to stop these “seeds” from forming, by stopping the critical process from taking place inside clinically acquired breast tumours. It is hoped this therapeutic strategy that could be tested in patients in the future.



Dr Chris Gwenin, Bangor University Pilot grant and feasibility study

Project Title: Testing a novel chemotherapy delivery system using novel prodrugs

Amount: £4,753

Although directed against cancer cells, chemotherapy often produces unwelcomed side-effects due to its uptake by normal healthy cells. The delivery of effective chemotherapy to cancer cells, whilst avoiding healthy cells is one way by which reduce side-effects can be reduced. However, this represents a great challenge and is the focus of research in the laboratory of Dr Chris Gwenin, Bangor University. With funding from Cancer Research Wales, Dr Gwenin will investigate the use of new patented technology to better direct administered, harmless, front-line chemotherapy pro-drugs to the tumour-site, where they become activated upon arrival. This proof-of-principle study will use a panel of cancer cells derived from different cancer types to examine if the pro-drug approach is able to enhance the killing of cancer cells in a more targeted manner.