Cancer – pioneering treatment to improve and lengthen lives

Why are one in two of us diagnosed with cancer at some point during our life? And how can we build on tremendous successes in fighting some cancers to tackle those that remain resistant to treatment?

With your support, King’s and its healthcare partners have become leaders of innovation in the study and treatment of cancer.

Cancer Centre at Guy’s: bringing treatments from lab to bedside
In autumn 2016, a new Cancer Centre will open at Guy's Hospital. This state-of-the art facility will bring together the brightest scientific minds, transforming cancer care, survivorship and research. By integrating treatment with research, the new Cancer Centre could halve the 15 years it currently takes to get new treatments from lab to bedside. It will also be home to the Experimental Oncology Institute, and an estimated 30 per cent of patients will participate in clinical trials. This means that we will be able to speed up the search for better treatments and cures.

Pioneering a vaccine to treat leukaemia
Acute myeloid leukaemia mostly affects people aged over 60 and is becoming increasingly common. The conventional treatment is a bone marrow transplant, but afterwards nearly 60 per cent of patients aged 60-plus will relapse. Professor Ghulam Mufti, Head of the Section of Haemato-oncology at King’s College London and Consultant Haematologist at King’s College Hospital, leads a team developing a vaccine to prevent the return of this type of leukaemia. The vaccine is a personalised medicine using leukaemia cells collected from the patient. They are then specially engineered so that they are recognised as foreign by the body’s immune system. The technique boosts the immune system to destroy cancer cells. Initial results show patients suffer no side effects.

Tackling prostate cancer with research… and robots
Each year, 43,000 men in the UK are diagnosed with prostate cancer. Even though it can be treated through surgery, radiotherapy or hormone therapy, in up to a third of cases the cancer returns. King’s researchers are committed to finding new, safe and effective treatment options. One promising possibility is Metformin, a drug currently used to treat type two diabetes, which may halt the progression of prostate cancer. Through a new trial, entirely funded by philanthropic support, we aim to gather enough data to allow large-scale clinical testing.

King’s, in collaboration with Guy’s and St Thomas’, is also pioneering a surgical alternative to radical prostatectomy, removal of the prostate, which has a high risk of leaving patients incontinent or impotent. This surgery can now be carried out using a tiny and highly-sensitive robotic instrument. Robotic surgery allows surgeons to remove tumours more efficiently, with a lower chance of infection or life- changing side effects. It also reduces the risk of the cancer returning.

Beating breast cancer
With 50,000 cases diagnosed each year, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the UK. Advances in medical science have dramatically improved survival rates over the past 25 years, but some forms of the disease remain resistant to treatment. Every year around 1,500 women are diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), which is particularly aggressive and likely to recur. A gene mutation in TNBC cancer cells means they are unable to repair themselves and so do not respond well to the usual cancer treatments.

Professor Andrew Tutt and his team of breast cancer research specialists at King’s are testing a treatment called carboplatin chemotherapy, which works by directly targeting and killing the cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed.. As healthy cells are unaffected, there are fewer side effects.

A non-toxic treatment for tumours
A very recent and exciting development is the trial of a vaccine that could potentially enable the immune system to combat advanced cancer in patients with any kind of solid tumour. King’s scientists, in collaboration with partners, are testing the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine, which works by resembling the natural immune responses generated by the body against bacterial and viral infections. The vaccine, based on fragments of a key cancer protein, is a form of immunotherapy, stimulating the body’s immune system to fight the cancer.

Cancer touches almost all of us, either directly or indirectly. The advances of which we’re so proud – those that are improving and lengthening the lives of patients in the UK and worldwide – have been driven by the support of the King’s community. Without the philanthropic support of our donors, many of our successes in treating different cancers simply would not have happened.