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2017 Research Grants

The role of the gut microbiota in breast cancer

Amount Funded: 
£125,526 (48 month PhD project start date: 1 Jan 2018)

Research Organisation:
Quadram Institute Bioscience, Norwich Research Park

Grant Applicants: 
Dr Lindsay Hall
Dr Stephen Robinson


Lay Summary of Research: 
Breast cancer (BC) is a common disease, which can be deadly. For many years, we have known that what we eat affects the risk of getting breast cancer later in life. However, in recent years there is also some evidence that the bacteria which naturally live in our gut can also have an impact on surviving breast cancer. Antibiotic drugs can kill off some of our gut's "good" bacteria. Some of our preliminary pre-clinical research has shown that when the diversity of bacteria in the gut is reduced by antibiotic treatment, tumours seem to grow larger and more quickly than when normal healthy levels of bacteria are present.
In the research proposed here, we aim to understand:

  • How gut bacteria in BC patients are affected by antibiotic treatment
  • How microbe changes correlate to anti-cancer immune responses and clinical readouts
  • How specific microbes interact with the gut and tumour using cell culture models

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Detecting novel cancer sub-types in the Cancer Genome Atlas datasets using latent process Decomposition

Amount Funded: 
£80,977 (36 month PhD project start date: 1 Oct 2018)

Research Organisation:
Norwich Medical School, Bob Champion Research and Education Building, UEA

Grant Applicants: 
Dr Dan Brewer
Professor Colin Cooper

Lay Summary of Research: 
Cancer is not a disease but a collection of diseases in different tissues. Even within a single cancer type such as breast cancer, dividing up the disease into sub-types is important to help predict survival, inform treatment options and suggest new drug treatment strategies to improve the lives of those affected by cancer. Due to technological advances we now have measurements on the amounts of all genes expressed in cells of a large number of cancer samples. Unfortunately determining subtypes has been largely unsuccessful using traditional techniques with the notable exception of breast cancer.

We have applied an alternative computerised approach to finding subtypes in prostate cancer this approach is called LPD and it has successfully identified a particular subtype we call DESNT which as associated with a poor prognosis for patients. In this project we plan to apply LPD to data from the Cancer Gene Atlas, a large US project that has generated comprehensive multi level datasets in a large number of cancer types. These studies are expected to identify and characterise new sub types for many cancers. We will also train a cross disciplinary scientist who can understand and interpret both cancer and mathematical procedures necessary to continue cancer research in this era of big data and personalised medicine.


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SPICE: Support Provision in CancEr: feasibility study to understand the impact of Big C Cancer Charity services on outcomes and experience of those affected by cancer

Amount Funded: 
52,957 (funds made available from a separate allocation)      
                                                  
Research Organisation:
Norwich Medical School, UEA

Grant Applicants: 
Prof Andy Jones   
Matt Keeling          
Stuart Michael Crawford                
Max Bachmann  
                 

Lay Summary of Research: 
A study has been designed based on the discussions between the Big C and UEA. The study team will ask patients who have been newly diagnosed with cancer at The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and their carers, if they would like to take part. Some of those individuals will go on to use Big C support services, whilst others will not. Comparing those who do and those who don’t use Big C, will allow us to better understand the impact that the organisation has on patients’ and carers’ experiences. We will invite, using questionnaires and other methods such as group or individual discussions, people to tell us what their experiences of using cancer services have been. The research will focus on things like what types of services they have used, how isolated or anxious they feel, how well they understand the cancer, and how confident they feel. We will use this to measure the impact of Big C services on patient and carer health and wellbeing, as well as looking at the wider benefits to society, including issues such as reduced financial hardship for families, better success when people return to work, whether there is a reduced cost of care provision, and less pressure on NHS services.
 
The overall aim of the research will be to understand the experiences of all patients diagnosed with cancer throughout Norfolk, along with their carers. However, the research team firstly needs to trial how best to do some parts of the study, including how to ask people to take part in the study, the best ways of gathering information and keeping in touch, and what sort of questionnaires work well. We also need to better understand things like the number of people who will want to take part. To allow us to answer these questions, the initial study will last for 18 months and we will only focus on patients diagnosed with lung cancer at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Working with this group will allow us to develop our methods, so that the research can then include a larger group of people affected by cancer.