The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation has funded two new projects at the University of Liverpool which aim to improve survival rates for the UK’s biggest cancer killer.
Professor John Field, a Clinical Professor of Molecular Oncology, will receive £200,000 for the Liverpool Lung Project (LLP). The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation has invested £20m over 23 years into lung cancer research, including funding the Liverpool Lung Project for 18 years. The LLP is now recognised internationally as one of the major lung cancer cohort studies, which has made very significant contributions to early lung cancer research.
Identifying high risk individuals
The Liverpool Lung Project is the largest of its kind in Europe with over 12,000 participants. The information for this large study has provided a method of identifying high risk individuals for further investigations. This included the LLP Risk Model which has been utilised in the recent UK Lung Cancer CT screening trial.
The LLP research programme focuses on Liverpool, as it has the most cases of lung cancer in the country and the wide range of valuable specimens has enabled the discovery and validation of a number of early lung cancer diagnostic biomarkers.
Researchers recruit people who are attending hospital for tests, as well as people who have recently been diagnosed with lung cancer and ask them to complete a short lifestyle questionnaire. They are also asked to give a blood sample, a swab from inside their mouth and, in some cases, a tissue sample.
Professor Field said: “The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation has provided the means to develop and implement early lung cancer detection techniques which would have been impossible without their support. Their investment in the Liverpool Lung Project has made a major impact on lung cancer research nationally and internationally, for which we are extremely grateful.”
In the second project, molecular oncologist, from the University’s Institute of Translational Medicine, Dr Lakis Liloglou, will receive £75k to look for genetic markers in a patient’s blood which could identify lung cancer at a very early stage, when it can still be cured.
He has previously identified similar genetic markers by taking samples, called bronchial washings, from patients’ airways, which is a complex clinical procedure.
Simple blood test
Dr Liloglou’s research team will now try to find the same markers in a patient’s blood, leading to a cheap and simple blood test to diagnose lung cancer at a very early stage.
Despite being the biggest killer, lung cancer receives only 7% of cancer research funding. Consultant oncologist David Gilligan is head of the charity’s grants committee. He said: “There is only £425 spent on research for every person who dies from lung cancer compared to £3,509 for breast cancer, which is one of the reasons breast cancer has much higher survival rates.
“We are aiming to increase the amount of life-saving lung cancer research we are funding, but we cannot do it alone.”