2019 Grants

Professors Clare Wilkinson and Richard Neal, Bangor University – Research Trial
Project Title: Pilot Randomised Primary Care Clinical Trial
Amount: £193,981
Duration: 24 months

During the first 3 years of the Primary Care Programme Grant vital evidence has been gathered concerning the beliefs, behaviours and knowledge of Welsh GPs with respect to cancer signs, symptoms and referral activity. Using this evidence, along with the identified needs of GPs, Professor Clare Wilkinson and the Think Cancer team have devised a package of interventions that impact all operations within primary care surgeries. This trial is designed to enhance the number and accuracy at which GPs make referrals for suspected cases of cancer.


Professors Andrew Godkin and Awen Gallimore, Cardiff University – Post-doctoral position
Project Title: Bioinformatic Analysis of Multiple Immunological Markers for the Design of Improved Immunotherapy Treatments in Bowel Cancer
Amount: £134,272
Duration: 24 months

Modern scientific technologies mean that vast quantities of molecular information can be captured in response to a disease state or therapeutic intervention – all of which will need highly specialised analysis. This new funding will allow Professors Godkin and Gallimore to better investigate the biological information gained from the successful Cancer Research Wales immunotherapy TacTiCC trial, which saw the life-expectancy of metastatic bowel cancer patients increase by 10 months. It is hoped this new work will discover why some patients responded better than others so that new immunological targets and treatments can be designed to further improve future trials.


Drs Alan Parker and Cath Hogan, Cardiff University – Post-Doctoral Position
Project Title: Delivery of Suicide Therapies and Manipulation of KRAS Signalling Using a Precision Virotherapy: Novel Approaches for Pancreatic Cancer.
Amount: £149,950
Duration: 24 months

With over 10,000 people diagnosed each year with pancreatic cancer and with 5-year currently below 5%, there is a clear pressing need for more effective treatments for this disease. Building on previous Cancer Research Wales funded work, Drs Parker and Hogan develop will utilise common viruses that have been altered to specially target and kill pancreatic tumour cells, leaving surrounding normal cells untouched. These viruses, which are well suited for onward clinical translation, will be loaded with a suite of novel, clinically relevant agents, that aim to nullify the main biological pathways that make pancreatic cancer particularly aggressive and resistant to current treatments.


Dr Jason Webber, Cardiff University – Level 2 Project Grant
Project Title: Making a Difference in Prostate Cancer; Developing a New Blood-Based Test for Early Diagnosis of Aggressive Prostate Cancer.
Amount: £295,854
Duration: 24 months

NICE have identified the developed of new blood-tests for the diagnosis of prostate cancer as a priority area for future research, due to the limitations of PSA. This project will look to develop a specific blood-test that measures specialised bubbles of fat, known as exosomes. The measurement of exosomes released from prostate tumours into the blood will be compared with matched MRI scans. The aim is determine if the new blood test is better than PSA and MRI at distinguishing between aggressive prostate cancers which may need urgent treatment from those who may not.


Dr Ramsay MacFarlane, Bangor University – Clinical PhD Studentship
Project Title: Development of the clinical utility of the novel cancer/testis antigen TEX19: early diagnosis, patient stratification and therapeutic targeting.
Amount: £239,587
Duration: 36 months

The aim of this research program will be to train a medical oncologist to develop a new research programme to help test the usefulness of cancer biomarkers for early cancer diagnosis, and better treatment. In the first instance the research will focus on lung and bowel cancers, which combined account for around 30% of all cancer deaths each year in Wales. A range of tumour samples at different stages will be assessed to determine if these biomarkers are present early on in the disease, and if they can predict disease progression and match the right patient, with the right drug at the right time.


Professor Rachel Errington, Cardiff University – Post-Doctoral Position
Project Title: Mechano-transduction modelling of the bone niche driving prostate metastatic cancer
Amount: £147,301
Duration: 24 months

When prostate cancer has spread to the bone treatment can become challenging and is almost always fatal. A major issue for scientists and drug developers is the difficulty in mimicking the early stages of cancer spread in a biologically relevant bone environment to better understand the processes involved. Professor Rachel Errington and her team will work closely with osteoarthritis researchers to understand better how and why cancer cells disturb bone tissue. The three main aims of this project are (i) To detect early indicators of bone pathology soon after cancer cells disturb this process (ii) To determine early treatment targets (iii) to translate known bone stem cell biology to prostate cancer.


Professor Andrea Brancale, Cardiff University – PhD Studentship
Project Title: Design, Synthesis and Evaluation of Novel CD200, PD-1 and CTLA-4 Small-Molecule Inhibitors as Potential Cancer Treatment
Amount: £100,000
Duration: 36 months

In order to protect our body, the immune system detects, attacks and kills bacteria, viruses and rouge cells it recognises as “foreign”, without causing damage to self. The delicate balance is controlled by different immunological on-off switches known as checkpoint activators and deactivators. During cancer, activators switch-on the immune system to attack and kill tumour cells, to help fight against cancer. Unfortunately, cancer cells have developed the ability to avoid immune system detection by switching-on the deactivators. In this project, using different computer, chemistry and biology techniques, the laboratory of Professor Brancale, aim to find new molecules that can block different immune-checkpoint deactivators which can be used to design and develop new classes of immunotherapy for the treatment of different cancers.


Dr Pasquale Innominato, Betsi Cadwaladr NHS Trust – Innovation Grant
Project Title: Routine Collection of Digital Patient-Reported Outcomes and Experience for Symptom Control [DOESC-01]
Amount: £19,500
Duration: 24 months

This project aims to improve the quality of life and symptoms that patients unfortunately encounter during their cancer journey. These symptoms can be physical or psychological and often include pain, fatigue, sleep disturbance or anxiety disorders. Whilst treating a patient’s cancer involves prescribing a regime of medicines, wholly treating the patient with cancer requires a much more holistic approach and good communication. Workload pressures in clinics can slowly erode the length of time set aside per patient. By harnessing the power of new technologies this project will introduce tablet-based smart questionnaires into the pre-clinic waiting room, to delve into specific symptoms and their impact on patients’ life. This will hopefully encourage a patient to reflect on what they want from the consultation and enhance the clinical review and their experience with care.


Professor Chris Marshall, Cardiff University – PhD Studentship (Part-Time)
Project Title: Optimisation of Scanning with CZT Gamma Cameras to Improve the Detection of Metastatic Spread to the Bone in a Range of Cancers
Amount: £22,920
Duration: 60 months

Nuclear Medicine uses radioactive isotopes for patient diagnosis, as it provides additional functional information compared to other imaging techniques. New digital gamma cameras have been introduced that have superior imaging capabilities. This can lead to beneficial reductions in scan time and dose of radiation used. The aim of this study is to optimise this new technology for the imaging of secondary bone tumours in prostate cancers, amongst other cancer types, with regards to scan time, patient dose and image quality. It is hoped that secondary bone tumours can be detected at a much earlier stage than previously, possibly offering radical curative surgery, rather than just life-prolonging hormone or chemotherapy.


Dr Richard Clarkson, Wales Cancer Bank and Cardiff University
Project Title: ASTRA2 ‘Access to Patient Samples for Translational Research Award’
Amount: £100,000
Duration: 30 months

This new project will be undertaken in collaboration with the Wales Cancer Bank. Funding for four projects will be provided to test new ideas and hypothesis,’ and generate preliminary data for further larger studies. The successful applicants will use clinically relevant specimens collected from Welsh cancer patients who have kindly donated tissue as part of their cancer diagnosis and treatment. The projects will seek to discover novel cancer biomarkers that clinicians may find useful for prognostic purposes and treatment choice.


Other Funding

The North Wales Centre for Primary Care Research, Bangor University, have received an extra £28,235 to help capture the whole diagnostic journey for prostate cancer patients, from first noticing symptoms through to primary care, referral and commencement of treatment. By describing, in detail, the factors and influences that contribute to men’s diagnostic journeys, the research team hope to be able to identify potential interventions to prevent unnecessary delays in diagnosis of aggressive prostate cancers, whilst avoiding over-diagnosis for men with more indolent disease. It is hoped the information gained will also help influence policy and practice.

The Clinical Trials Unit at Velindre Cancer Centre has received £79,000 to provide support for a number of clinical trials that are currently underway. This funding helps ensure that Welsh patients have access to the latest cancer treatments that research has provided and enables all associated data to be captured and analysed in a meaningful way.