Clinical Academic Training

Medical Oncology

Liquid biopsies, individualised chemotherapy and oncogenic signals in mesothelioma

  • Anne Thomas
  • Jacqui Shaw
  • Catrin Pritchard
  • Dean Fennell

Despite significant advances being made in the treatment of patients with cancer, more needs to be done to improve outcomes. In oncology, the term precision medicine means giving the right treatment to the right patient at the right time. Although this sounds simplistic, in practice, it is hugely complex. Projects are offered using cutting edge technologies that are available at the University of Leicester.

Professor Shaw's group has spent more than 20 years studying the 'liquid biopsy'. This technology can detect the DNA shed by tumour cells (ctDNA) into the blood of patients with a number of different cancers. Repeat blood tests can be taken for patients throughout their treatments to monitor ctDNA to detect minimal residual disease, disease progression as soon as possible, understand why some tumours eventually become resistant to treatments thereby personalising individual patient's treatment. Read the article.

Each year millions of dollars are spent developing new drugs. Historically this process has involved taking a drug of interest, testing it on cancer cells in the laboratory and then animal models with cancer.  Promising drugs then enter clinical trials.  This process is expensive both financially and in terms of time. In Professor Pritchard’s laboratory they have developed a novel way of growing a tumour outside the body long enough to test new drugs on it.  This means that we can effectively carry out an experiment using a piece of a patients cancer tissue (biopsy) and find the most effective drug to kill the cancer cells on a patient by patient basis. Again, individualising the treatment of patients. Read the article.

Mesothelioma remains an incurable cancer lacking effective therapy, particularly in the relapsed setting. Precision medicine for mesothelioma is in its infancy, but is a research priority. Professor Fennell’s group interrogates the cancer genes in mesothelioma to identify oncogenic signals that are then targeted in novel clinical studies. Read the article.

Within the Leicester Cancer Centre scientists work alongside clinicians to ensure we deliver the best lab to bedside cancer research. This model provides a rich environment for bright and up and coming academic doctors to flourish. The team has an excellent track record in supporting ACF trainees providing them with grant writing and funding opportunities, excellent laboratory skills training and opportunities for manuscript writing. All this is done while ensuring that trainees continue to develop their clinical skills with protected research time. To date we have successfully provided this excellent support network for both medical and surgical focused trainees.

Medical Education

If you are interested in progressing an educational research project within the speciality please visit the medical education project page


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