2021 Grants

Dr Kieran Foley (Cardiff University/Velindre Hospital)

Project Title: Advanced microstructure characterisation of the prostate with ultra-strong gradient MRI

Amount: £25,000

Duration: 24 months

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in Wales. Biopsy remains the gold standard for diagnosing prostate cancer and MRI scans can be used to help guide the biopsy to the correct region of the prostate. However, current methods miss around 1 in 4 cases of prostate cancer meaning there is scope for significant improvement. This project will make use of an advanced MRI scanner, one of only four in the world, to image both healthy men and men with prostate cancer. This pioneering work will be the first study in the world to use this technology to image an organ other than the brain and it is hoped will deliver scans with unprecedented detail, with the long-term goal of helping clinicians diagnose prostate cancer earlier.


Mr Philip Wheeler (Velindre Hospital)

Project Title: ASSURE-RT: evaluating the utility of automated treatment planning for objective quality ASSURancE in Radiotherapy clinical Trials

Amount: £25,000

Duration: 10 months

Radiotherapy is a key weapon for oncologists, with half of all cured cancer patients having radiotherapy as part of their treatment. Individual treatment plans are generated for each patient by expert staff, but there is evidence that the quality of these plans varies between different hospitals and even within radiotherapy departments. This project will make use of recently developed computer algorithms that generate individual treatment plans autonomously to give an objective gold standard. The team will retrospectively assess the quality of treatment plans in the PATHOS clinical trial compared to the computer-generated gold standards, to investigate the scale of variation. They will then work towards implementing this automated treatment planning into future clinical trials, to ensure the best data can be obtained and all patients receive the best possible treatment.


Dr Stephen Man (Cardiff University)

Project Title: Understanding the molecular conversation between prostate cancer cells and T cells to improve immunotherapy

Amount: £13,752

Duration: 12 months

Prostate cancer represents a major burden to the NHS in Wales, in particular at late stages when it is very difficult to treat. Immunotherapies, which harness the immune system to kill cancer cells, have shown great promise in treating some cancers but have had limited success for prostate cancer. This is believed to be caused, at least in part, by suppression of the immune system by prostate cancer cells. This project will investigate the role of extracellular vesicles, microscopic bubbles that can carry a cargo of important molecules, which are released from prostate cancer cells. The team will use microscopy to track the interactions of extracellular vesicles with immune cells and will assess the resultant impact on immune cell function, with the goal of understanding how prostate cancer suppresses immune responses.


Susan Davies (Wales Cancer Network)

Project Title: Exploring the introduction of a rural Rapid Diagnosis Centre/Clinic – what is the best model?

Amount: £20,000

Duration: 9 months

Around half of all cancer patients initially present with vague symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss or fatigue, which are not immediate red flags for cancer. Rapid diagnostic centres (RDCs) provide a “one-stop shop” for these vague symptom patients, where a suite of tests can be conducted quickly and efficiently to ensure a timely diagnosis. These RDCs are normally based in large secondary care centres, which poses an issue for rural communities, such as Powys, that do not have access to large hospitals. This project will conduct investigations into the resources, staffing and funding available for the delivery of an RDC-style service in rural communities, using Powys as a case study. The team aim to produce key evidence of the disparities between rural and urban areas and hope to generate recommendations for delivering the benefits of RDCs to rural communities.


Professor Duncan Baird (Cardiff University)

Project Title: A study of telomere biology in gliomas and drivers of genomic instability

Amount: £19,820

Duration: 12 months

Glioblastoma is the most common form of brain cancer and has a very poor prognosis, with a need for better information and treatment options. Telomeres are short caps that protect the ends of chromosomes, which wear away as cells divide potentially leading to chromosomes fusing together, a hallmark of many cancers. In this project, the team will analyse the telomeres of 100 glioblastoma patients to assess their length and look for the presence of these fusions, then will compare this information to the patients’ outcomes. As has been shown in other cancer types, it is hoped that analysing the telomeres will allow predictions to be made about prognosis and treatment responses, giving oncologists vital information to help guide the care of their glioblastoma patients.


Professor Gareth Jenkins (Swansea University)

Project Title: Measuring underlying susceptibility to oxidative DNA damage in oesophageal cancer patients

Amount: £17,050

Duration: 12 months

Oesophageal cancer is often diagnosed at late stages and this is reflected in poor survival rates, with over 450 deaths every year in Wales. Diagnosis for oesophageal cancer currently relies on endoscopies, which are invasive and have a long waiting list due to high demand for this specialist technique. This project will build on work that is aiming to create a blood test for oesophageal cancer by analysing mutations in blood cells. The team will take blood from oesophageal cancer patients and healthy donors, then use DNA damaging chemicals to measure the susceptibility of blood cells to DNA damage and mutations. It is hoped this will provide an insight into how mutations arise in blood cells from cancer patients and will further enhance the diagnostic potential of the blood test the team are developing.