Fanconi Hope awards £92,000 grant to the University of Manchester for Proton Beam Therapy Investigation

Fanconi Hope, the UK support group for people affected by Fanconi Anaemia (FA), a rare, life-limiting and currently incurable genetic condition, has awarded a grant of £92,000 to the University of Manchester for a 3 year investigation into the optimised use of Proton Beam Therapy for the treatment of cancer in FA patients.  

A massive ‘Thank You’ is due to our FA families, relatives and friends whose fundraising efforts over the last 2 years have made this project possible!

This study uses the new state-of-the-art Proton Therapy facility in the UK at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester and an outstanding team of investigators has been assembled. The study, due to start in Autumn 2020, represents exceptional value for money for Fanconi Hope and there is real potential for rapid translation into the clinical environment.

A message from our Patron, the Duchess of Devonshire DL.

“As Patron of the Fanconi Hope Charitable Trust I have always believed that this small charity could have a big impact on many lives. The project to be undertaken at the impressive new Proton Therapy facilities at the University of Manchester indeed holds great promise to extend the lives of many of those affected by Fanconi Anaemia.   The community that Fanconi Hope serves has responded magnificently by uniting behind the call to raise funds for this vital project and together with the passion and drive of the Trustees I have no doubt that this small charity and its supporters will continue to make a difference for all those suffering because of Fanconi Anaemia”.

Bob Dalgleish, Chair of Fanconi Hope said, “We are very fortunate indeed to have such a close-knit team of experts involved in this project at the UK’s first proton therapy facility in the UK. Until now, our patients, many of whom will succumb to solid cancers have had surgery as their only viable option, as chemotherapy and radiotherapy are extremely harmful to people with FA. Proton Therapy has the potential to be a much more effective treatment with fewer side effects than surgery. However, no-one yet knows just how our patients’ cells react to the proton beam radiation. Once we know this then the treatment can be optimised for our patient group. This is such exciting work, using real cell samples from FA patients, with the results of this work likely to be of relatively immediate benefit”.

More detail

The incidence of solid cancers in people with FA is very high, but current treatment options are limited and involve mainly surgery as chemotherapy and radiotherapy in normal doses are very harmful to FA patients and risk damaging the healthy areas surrounding the cancers.

Image Courtesy of Cancer Research UK

New Proton Beam Therapy (PBT) facilities in Manchester have the potential to treat these solid cancers much more effectively and with much less damage to surrounding tissue than radiotherapy. However, the effect of proton beams on FA patient’s delicate cells is not currently well understood. Read more about Proton Therapy

This 3 year PhD programme will study the effect of PBT on cells samples from FA patients with and without cancer in order to gain a detailed understanding of the effects on FA tissue of PBT in comparison to conventional radiotherapy. This will in turn allow the treatment effectiveness of PBT to be optimised.

The proposed experimental work is enabled by new purpose-built state-of-the-art PBT research facilities at The Christie in Manchester. The work will involve extensive modelling techniques developed by the groups involved, high throughput capacity allowing efficient gathering of test results and the ability of the investigators to collect and analyse complex biological data from tissue samples previously obtained from FA patients with and without cancer.

A key consideration of the study will be the impact of hypoxia (lack of oxygen in the blood) on the effectiveness of Proton Therapy using novel purpose-built facilities. Hypoxia is considered to be one of the most important factors influencing clinical outcome following radiotherapy for Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (cancers).

The work will have a strong clinical focus on FA with real potential for rapid clinical translation.

The study benefits from a close-knit team of experienced investigators at the University of Manchester, including:-

  • Dr Stefan Meyer,Paediatric Oncologist, Stem Cell And Leukaemia Proteomics Lab (SCALPL),
  • Professor Karen Kirkby, PRECISE Proton Research Group with Dr Amy Chadwick and Dr Elham Santina,
  • Professor Anthony D Whetton, SCALPL Laboratory and Stoller Biomarker Discovery Centre with Dr Andrew Pierce.
  • Also involved as a collaborator is Dr Nigel J. Jones, a senior lecturer from the Institute of Integrative Biology at the University of Liverpool.
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