31st July 2021
We would like to extend a warm thank you to everyone who made our 2021 virtual conference 'The Cartography of Cancer: Mapping Tumours in 3D' a great success. We had a series of fantastic talks covering areas from the tumour microenvironment to immunology, mutation and metabolic mapping.
A special thank you to our keynote speaker Josephine Bunch from the National Physical Laboratory. Josephine is leading the Rosetta Cancer Grand Challenge to build a complete picture of the anatomy of a tumour. She gave a fantastic talk explaining how the NPL has been involved in this challenge with its unparalleled expertise in the art and science of taking precise measurements, something which is essential for building a detailed map of a tumour. She spoke about using an arsenal of advanced techniques such as nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry and desorption electrospray ionisation to unpick the metabolic heterogeneity of tumours.
We were also fortunate to be able to hold an insightful careers workshop with Maria Papatriantafyllou from FEBS and Daniel Klimmeck from EMBO, both editors who shared their experience of careers in publishing, as well as our own Laura Machesky.
Congratulations to Colinda Scheele (VIB) for winning the prize for best short talk, and to Toshi Suzuki (Beatson) for the best flash talk.
And of course, a massive thank you to our sponsors: Transnetyx, European Association for Cancer Research, Li-Cor, Fluidigm, National Cancer Research Institute, Merck, The EMBO Journal, FEBS Press, proteintech and Cancer Research UK.
Looking ahead to next year's meeting, we very much hope we will once again be able to welcome everyone in person to the Beatson and Glasgow.
28th July 2021
Cancer Research UK has deepened its commitment to good research practice by becoming a signatory of the Concordat to Support Research Integrity. In their recent blog post, they speak two Research Integrity Advisers - Dr Catherine Winchester, CRUK Beatson Institute and Dr Andrew Porter, CRUK Manchester Institute - to find out why supporting scientists to be the best they can be is the only way to ensure quality research...
06th July 2021
Sitryx, a biopharmaceutical company focused on immunometabolism, has entered into a license agreement with Cancer Research UK to develop IP from the Beatson Institute's Drug Discovery Unit relating to small molecule inhibitors of a target kinase, which plays a critical role in a metabolic pathway of emerging importance in immune cells and inflammatory processes: https://www.sitryx.com/news/sitryx-licenses-intellectual-property-rights-for-inhibitors-of-a-new-target-in-immunometabolism-from-cancer-research-uk-in-exclusive-worldwide-agreement
05th July 2021
This month, we were delighted to see the translation of doctoral research into three outstanding scientific publications.
Valentin Barthet and Beatson colleagues progressed our understanding of the cell of origin in liver cancer. In a new preclinical model driven by the loss of a cellular recycling process called macroautophagy and the tumour-suppressor gene PTEN, mature liver cells developed into stem cell-like progenitors giving rise to cancerous cells. On a molecular level, the activation of YAP together with TAZ also highlighted possible new avenues for treatment intervention in liver cancer. [Autophagy suppresses the formation of hepatocyte-derived cancer-initiating ductular progenitor cells in the liver in Science Advances]
Aldo Bader together with Martin Bushell introduced a new program in the latest edition of DNA Repair – through a curated database, this allows for quick and simple meta-analyses of published studies together with the users’ own data investigating DNA repair. In his own studies, Aldo identified a network of novel DNA repair genes linked to the progression of cancer of the adrenal gland. The software is free to download from: http://damage-net.co.uk/
Together with a team of Beatson scientists, Anh Hoang Le characterised the cellular role of the protein CYRI-A in his recent article in Journal of Cell Biology. Within cells, the researchers placed CYRI-A at the site of membrane extensions that facilitate the uptake of cargo from the extracellular space. Further work is required, but the authors suggested that CYRI-A takes a regulating role and forces, in particular, the engulfment of external cargo. Through this, CYRI-A together with its paralogue CYRI-B also impacted the cells’ ability to adhere and spread to distant sites, such as in cancer metastasis.
Cargo proteins help other proteins maintain their stability when travelling through the cell body. Tamas Yelland, Esther Garcia, Youhani Samarakoon, together with Shehab Ismail characterised the cargo protein UNC119B, solving its crystal structure. With a focus on biochemical differences to its paralogue UNC119A, UNC119B showed overlapping but not identical cargo binding, facilitated by a specific negatively charged site within its structure. [The Structural and Biochemical Characterization of UNC119B CargoBinding and Release Mechanisms in Biochemistry]
By comparing protein signatures across multiple cell models Beatson scientists Kelly Hodge, Sergio Lilla and Sara Zanivan, in a collaboration led by a team at MD Anderson Cancer Center, Texas revised the suite of classic exosome markers. Among 22 enriched core protein markers, they identified Syntenin-1 as the most abundant protein in exosomes. The information generated in this Nature Cell Biology article provides a comprehensive resource for the scientific community interested in the basic biology of exosomes and their translational application.
The Sansom lab continued to develop new insights into the biology underlying colorectal cancer. In their recent Nature article, scientist Dustin Flanagan together with collaborators identified the protein NOTUM as a key factor that allows APC-mutant cells to outcompete non-mutant cells in the intestinal crypt and therefore aid cancer formation. In a recent Nature Communications study, Josh Leach and fellow researchers developed a new preclinical model of right-sided bowel cancer that faithfully mimics human disease. Initial molecular observations of the involvement of YAP signalling and local inflammation set starting points for the development of new, effective therapies and early detection approaches for colorectal cancer.
30th June 2021
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK, for example it affects 1 in 10 men in Scotland. Glasgow-based scientist Dr Kirsteen Campbell, from the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute, has just received a major award of £273,534 from the charity Prostate Cancer Research (PCR) to investigate if a protein called MCL-1 could lead to new treatment options.
Kirsteen's award bucks the trend at a time when funding for non-COVID health research has been cut dramatically with some clinical trials being cancelled or postponed and some researchers leaving the sector. The award made by PCR is part of £1.4 million awarded by the charity to new research projects that could have a real impact for those living with advanced prostate cancer. PCR already funds 10 projects across the UK, including one led by Professor Iain J. McEwan at the University of Aberdeen, which is exploring new approaches to hormone therapy for prostate cancer to keep it working for longer.
Patients with advanced prostate cancer have been found to have high levels of a protein called MCL-1. Kirsteen's team hope to understand why this is and develop new treatment options. Little is known about the role of MCL-1 in prostate cancer, but patients with high levels of the protein are more likely to have their lives cut short by the disease than those with low levels. High levels of MCL-1 have also been linked to resistance to hormone therapy, and drugs targeting MCL-1 have already been developed to treat blood cancers. The researchers believe that these drugs could also be used to treat prostate cancer more effectively than current treatments. Kirsteen explains 'We will bring a novel approach to the investigation of advanced prostate cancer, where we believe that drugs already in clinical trials for other types of cancer could be exploited to eliminate prostate cancer cells from the body.'
In 2020 the charity launched a report on the overall prostate cancer research and funding landscape. This report revealed that over 60% of prostate cancer funding in the UK from 2002/3 – 2018/19 was concentrated within the so-called 'Golden Triangle' of London, Oxford and Cambridge, whereas Scotland received just 10% of this funding. Researchers based outside of the Golden Triangle reported, via both surveys and focus groups, that it could be more challenging to attract funding, collaborators, and recruit staff as a result of their location. In response, PCR has pledged to be vigilant against location and institution bias, and to only fund the best scientists with the best ideas, irrespective of where they are based.
'Dr Kirsteen Campbell's work is innovative in that she is taking lessons from research into other cancers, like breast and blood, and applying them to prostate cancer. We hope that this means she and her team will be able to quickly make discoveries which can give patients with advanced prostate cancer more options – all the more important now that the pandemic is likely to lead to significant numbers of people being diagnosed with cancer at a later stage.' Dr Naomi Elster, Head of Research, Prostate Cancer Research
'We will bring a novel approach to the investigation of advanced prostate cancer, where we believe that drugs already in clinical trials for other types of cancer could be exploited to eliminate prostate cancer cells from the body. We aim to expedite the development of these new therapeutics in combination with current prostate cancer treatments and are delighted to use this PCR award to help make a difference to the lives of patients with prostate cancer.' Dr Kirsteen Campbell, Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute
Patient advocate Helen Matthews met with Owen Sansom to discuss the latest findings of the Cancer Grand Challenge project SPECIFICANCER, which aims to understand why mutations in certain genes only cause cancer in specific parts of the body.
Check out the video below to hear the conversation.