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Radiotherapy

Around 50% of all cancer patients are treated with radiotherapy, yet this treatment only cures a fraction of patients.

Pioneering research conducted by Professors Ian Stratford and Kaye Williams at The University of Manchester has led to the development and application of techniques that target the resistance of tumour cells to treatment with radiotherapy.

Their work since 1997 has been on tumour hypoxia, which is a physiological abnormality of most solid tumours.

Hypoxia is lack of oxygen and this can make tumour cells resistant to radio- and chemotherapy. Their work has resulted in the improved use of radiotherapy on cancer patients.

They identified that the transcription factor hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) and HIF-1 regulated targets can drive tumour growth and can influence responses to radio-and chemotherapy, such that now HIF-1/hypoxia-related biomarkers are used in world leading cancer centres to influence how patients are treated.

This is an exemplar of personalised cancer medicine. Professors Stratford and Williams have also led the application of combining molecularly targeted drugs in radiotherapy.

Their work:

  • has already shown that such combinations leads to better patient outcome;
  • alerted the pharmaceutical industry to the approach of combining target specific drugs with radiotherapy at a much earlier stage of the drug development process;
  • saved the pharmaceutical industry potentially millions of pounds by early identification of drugs that are unlikely to work in combination with radiotherapy;
  • played an instrumental role in creating a highly successful National Cancer Research Institute radiotherapy research group. Since 2009 the group has increased the number of clinical trials by 66% and doubled the number of patients taking part in radiotherapy-driven clinical trials.

“Pioneering research conducted at The University of Manchester has led to the development and application of techniques that target the resistance of tumour cells to treatment with radiotherapy.”

Kaye Williams / Professor/Group Leader Hypoxia and Therapeutics