Current Projects

These are just a selection of the projects we are currently fundraising for. If you would like to support any of these or find out more about our research into a particular cancer, please get in touch with Charlotte Taylor on charlotte.a.taylor[at]

Pioneering safer and more effective treatments for childhood leukaemia £125,000

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is the most common childhood cancer and a leading cause of childhood death in the UK. Children with ALL must undergo a gruelling three to four year chemotherapy programme which has a huge and lasting impact on their health. For the children who develop resistance to chemotherapy, there are sadly no other treatment options left. There is an urgent need to develop new lifesaving drugs, and to move away from the toxicity of chemotherapy towards kinder and more effective treatments. This two year project will identify the genes responsible for chemo-resistance, and will pioneer new gene and drug therapies for ALL. Our findings can save the lives of children who relapse, and will improve the quality of life for all other patients.

Developing a new early diagnosis screening test for liver cancer £138,000

Although primary liver cancer is considered rare in the UK, it has one of the worst survival rates out of all cancers and mortality rates are increasing each year. The majority of patients have a background of chronic liver disease caused by alcohol harm, obesity, or hepatitis, and these high risk populations are offered routine ultrasound screening every six months. However this method is expensive, requires a hospital visit, and is ineffective at detecting small tumours. As a result, only 1 in 10 patients are diagnosed early enough to benefit from curative treatment. We urgently need a new screening test that can diagnose patients earlier and can be accessed by more people via screening in the community. Using the latest technology, scientists at the UCL Cancer Institute propose to develop and validate a pioneering new test that searches for particles of cancer DNA in the patient’s bloodstream. This two year study will leverage funding for a clinical trial and has the power to save thousands of lives.

Mobilising the patient’s immune system to fight lung cancer £125,000

The most exciting anti-cancer strategy since chemotherapy in the 1940s, immunotherapy harnesses the power of our own immune system to fight cancer. With its unique ability to recognise and destroy foreign bodies, combined with its capacity for memory, our immune system holds great potential for novel treatments that are powerful and targeted, offer long-lasting protection, can be applied to most cancers, and can even benefit patients whose disease is advanced. The challenge now is to work out why some people experience incredible recoveries and other patients do not respond to treatment at all. Much of the Institute’s work in this area focuses on lung cancer, where diagnosis is often late, current treatments are ineffective, and survival rates are so poor. This study will be the first to analyse the immune tumour microenvironment of clinical lung cancer samples, searching for links between the tumour’s genetic mutations, the interplay between cancer and immune cells, and the clinical outcome of the patient. Our findings will highlight targets for new immunotherapy treatments and identify clinical biomarkers so that doctors can give the right drug to the right patient at the right time.

Optimising combination therapies for bowel cancer £163,000

Bowel cancer remains the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK, with 44 people dying every day. New approaches and new drugs will help save lives in the future, but in order to improve outcomes for patients now, we must ensure that existing drugs are used optimally and in the most effective combinations. There is growing evidence to suggest that certain cancer drugs can negatively interact, and several studies have found that the addition of the antibody cetuximab to the chemotherapy drug oxaliplatin resulted in poorer outcomes for patients. We urgently need to understand why this combination of drugs reduces the impact of treatment, and our findings will inform the design of improved combination therapies for colorectal cancer in the future. We have identified a gene which affects the interaction of these drugs, and in collaboration with Barts Blizard Institute, will investigate the biological mechanisms involved, and examine how human bowel cancer cells and genes respond to other drug combinations. This study will optimise combination therapies for bowel cancer and will play a key role in improving patient outcomes over the next 5-10 years.

Personal Genome Project UK: paving the way towards personalised cancer medicine £100,000

The UK is the first country in Europe to join the Personal Genome Project, which aims to analyse genetic and medical information from one million volunteers around the world, providing open data access to advance medical research on a global scale. The UK arm of the project, led by UCL Cancer Institute, aims to sequence the genetic material from 100,000 UK volunteers. As part of this process, clinically significant findings will be uncovered in the DNA of our volunteers, for example a gene predisposing them to breast cancer or Alzheimer’s, and we urgently need to develop an ethically acceptable framework for managing these findings and reporting them back to participants. 10,000 volunteers have already registered to take part, and we are now seeking funding to recruit a Policy Development Officer to engage with the public, the NHS 100,000 genome project, and other key stakeholders. This project will set a precedent for UK ethics in human genome research, advance our understanding of the links between genetics, lifestyle, and disease, and offer enormous capacity for disease prevention, not just in cancer but across the entire healthcare spectrum.

Vectra Automated Imaging Machine – converting slides into answers £297,000

This state-of-the-art imaging tool scans and analyses up to 200 patient tumours at a time, assessing how the cancer cells respond to treatment, how they interact with our immune system, and how they develop resistance to drugs. Its speed and automation will transform our clinical and research capabilities, leverage research funding for clinical trials, and produce lifesaving research results. £50,000 has been pledged towards the purchase of this machine and we are looking for major donors to close the shortfall.

Dr Javier Herrero, Head of Bill Lyons Informatics Centre £320,000

Dr Herrero is a cancer informatics specialist with over ten years experience working on large-scale genome sequencing projects. He joined UCL Cancer Institute to head up the newly opened Bill Lyons Informatics Centre in March 2014, and is responsible for providing leadership across the Cancer Institute in computational biology and statistical analysis. His team of 11 provide a core service for all our research groups, analysing hugely complex genomic and immunological data, and searching for patterns, mutations and biomarkers that might have clinical relevance amongst the mass of normal or ‘junk’ DNA. Dr Herrero and his team’s expertise will play a crucial role in the analysis of data from all of the above projects. The Institute has a funding gap in Dr Herrero’s salary that urgently needs filling. £160,000 has already been raised and we are seeking funders to close the shortfall.

Other opportunities:

  • Launch UCL Cancer Institute’s new proton beam clinical research programme
  • Contribute to the building of UCL Cancer Institute’s new Centre for Precision Cancer Medicine
  • Endow a Chair, postdoctoral researcher or PhD student
  • Fund the building works needed to adapt the Institute’s café into a seminar and event space

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Page last modified on 10 jun 15 14:47