Huge donation to fight cancer

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A HARROGATE-based cancer charity has given more than £2m to the University of York for prostate cancer stem cell research.

The five-year funding programme will allow Yorkshire Cancer Research’s unit at the university to investigate the molecular properties which allow prostate cancer stem cells to survive, spread and resist treatment.

Working with drug development company Pro-cure Therapeutics, the scientists, led by cancer specialist Professor Norman Maitland, will also aim to make a new generation of cancer drugs to specifically target prostate cancer stem cells, tackling the root cause of the disease.

Prof Maitland said: “Many years ago, scientists studying cancer proposed the existence of a special type of cell within the tumour, known as a cancer stem cell.

“This cell is thought to be responsible for the spread of the cancer, and remains as a treatment resistant ‘root’ after various forms of radio and chemotherapy.

“But only recently have scientists been able to isolate such cells from most of the major cancers and their existence is giving rise to new ideas about how to treat and even cure cancers.

“In York we have developed the means to obtain these cells specifically from prostate cancers, now the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men, and the properties of prostate cancer stem cells do indeed suggest that they form this treatment resistant core.”

The charity’s science liaison officer, Dr Kathryn Scott, said: “Professor Maitland is recognised as a world leader in prostate cancer stem cell research and Yorkshire Cancer Research is immensely proud to support this groundbreaking work.

“In the early years of this work, the cancer stem cell concept was not widely recognised but Professor Maitland and his team have worked incredibly hard to prove to the scientific community that prostate cancer stem cells do exist and are often treatment resistant, leading to recurrences.

“Professor Maitland’s laboratory remains the leading lab in the world capable of reliably isolating these cells directly from prostate cancer patients and this has led to exciting discoveries about what makes these cells different.

“Ultimately, these findings will result in new therapies to target these persistent cells.

“It is no wonder that the independent review from a panel of international experts rated parts of his work as truly outstanding and Yorkshire Cancer Research is looking forward to finally tackling this devastating disease.”