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Gift supports three young cancer researchers

 January 27, 2015 | Simon Jenkins

Tony and Francesca Bramall with, from left, Sebastian Trainor, Matthew Holmes and Michelle Wantoch.

Pioneering treatments for cancer are the focus of three young researchers whose work is being funded by a £500,000 gift from a Yorkshire charitable trust.

The gift supports work at the University of Leeds to investigate new treatments for kidney cancer and the use of viruses to fight back against tumours.

Clinical Research Fellow Dr Sebastian Trainor, from Co. Down in Northern Ireland, has joined a team investigating kidney cancer – an increasingly common cancer for which there are currently few treatments. They are working to find new ways to treat kidney cancers, by identifying changes in key proteins that make the cancer ‘tick’. The hope is that drugs designed to target these proteins could then be developed.

“I have seen the devastation that cancer can cause in people’s lives,” said Sebastian, adding that existing drugs for other conditions might also prove effective against kidney cancer. “There is real potential here to make a difference to patients’ quality and length of life.”

Some cancers are very hard to treat – even with surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy. PhD Scholars Michelle Wantoch and Matthew Holmes are contributing to ground-breaking Leeds work on using viruses to kill these hard-to-beat tumours.

Matthew, from Nenagh in Co. Tipperary, said: “Manipulating a virus to infect and kill cancer cells has fascinated me since I was first introduced to the concept during my degree studies.” Michelle, from Sutton in Surrey, added: “It’s about arming patients’ own cells again cancer. It’s an exciting new potential therapy which shows great promise.”

A trial using a virus to treat skin cancer has already reported positive results, and the Leeds researchers believe similar treatments have the potential to be used in cancers of the brain, liver, bladder, colon, lung and prostate.

The close working relationship between the research teams and clinicians at St James’s University Hospital provides first-hand contact with patients, access to cell and blood samples for testing and ensures that treatments in Leeds are guided by the very latest in cancer research.

Dr Naveen Vasudev, Honorary Consultant in Medical Oncology, said: “We are so grateful to the Tony Bramall Charitable Trust for this generous gift, which is funding vital research and investing in talent. These three young people will not just be working on new approaches to combating cancer over the next three years, but will go on making important contributions to cancer research and treatment throughout their careers as researchers and clinicians.”

This latest donation supports the University’s £60m Making a World of Difference Campaign – the institution’s first major fundraising initiative since 1925. This gift takes the total raised for the Campaign to more than £55m.

Find out more about our cancer research here.

Gift supports three young cancer researchers