Oncology trials within NIHR Leeds CRF focus predominantly on novel treatments for all types of solid cancers, with a particular focus on gastro-intestinal cancers, melanoma and brain tumours.

Early phase trials of new drug treatments form a large part of the oncology research within the CRF. These trials determine the highest dose of a new drug, or combination of drugs, that patients are able to tolerate safely. Although often designed for patients with any type of cancer who have exhausted standard treatment, increasingly these trials are aimed at patients whose cancers show particular molecular characteristics. In the CRF we also run later stage trials that look at the effectiveness of new drugs in specific cancer types, particularly where these involve more complex and/or experimental treatments.

Radiotherapy remains one of the most important treatment for patients with cancer. We are developing new, more sophisticated radiotherapy techniques, able to deliver more treatment to the tumour and less to surrounding normal tissues. A second important area of interest is how to safely and effectively combine radiotherapy with new targeted therapies and immunotherapies.

The majority of our trials are in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies of all sizes, from large multinationals e.g. GlaxoSmithKline, to smaller specialist companies such as E-therapeutics, Oncolytics or Transgene. We also work with Clinical Research Organisations to deliver trials for commercial sponsors. Cancer charities, especially Cancer Research UK and Yorkshire Cancer Research, are also often involved in providing both funding and expertise.

New cancer drugs work in very complex ways and increasingly we use sophisticated laboratory molecular analysis to ensure that the drug is reaching the tumour and behaving as predicted. Interventional radiology allows biopsy of tumours before and after treatment which are then subjected to pharmaco-dynamic analyses, while molecular imaging can determine activity of new drugs without the need for a biopsy.

NIHR Leeds CRF is one of the UK’s main centres carrying out trials on oncolytic viruses. These are viruses that specifically infect cancer cells, rather than normal cells, causing them to die. This can also stimulate the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells elsewhere in the body and we are able to measure these immune effects in the laboratory.

We are keen to work on novel approaches to treating patients with cancer and have particular expertise in working with cannabinoids – cannabis derivatives that  have anti-cancer properties in the laboratory and are now being investigated in patients.