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UEA joins forces with local charity to fight lung cancer

Row of test tubes

The University of East Anglia (UEA) is working with local charity PDT Norfolk to develop a non-invasive way of treating lung cancer.

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) works by combining the use of a photo-sensitive drug (a photosensitiser) with laser light to target cancerous cells and is already used to treat skin cancer at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. PDT Norfolk has raised £37,500, matched by the UEA, to fund a three-year research programme to develop the use of PDT to both detect and treat early-stage lung cancer.

“UEA has long been at the forefront of cancer research and, thanks to funding from supporters like the Anthony Long Charitable Trust – to whom we’re eternally grateful – we can combine our aim for more people to be treated with this therapy,” said Ian Gibson, Vice Chair of PDT Norfolk, Honorary Senior Lecturer at Norwich Medical School and former Norwich North MP. “The role of charities and the public in funding these initiatives cannot be over-estimated, and our work is encouraging people in hospitals across the country to think about potential new treatments for some cancers.”

“We’re delighted to work in partnership with PDT Norfolk into research that could make a major impact on the prognosis of people with lung cancer,” said Prof Mark Searcey, Head of the Schools of Chemistry and Pharmacy and Prof of Medicinal Chemistry at UEA.  “It remains one of the deadliest forms of the disease, with an extremely poor prognosis, and kills almost 36,000 people in the UK each year*. This innovative treatment could be used to replace or enhance surgery, radiography and chemotherapy, resulting in a better outcome for patients and far fewer side effects.”

Zoe Goddard is the PhD student who will undertake the research in UEA’s School of Pharmacy. “This is a very exciting project to be involved in,” she said. “It’s a completely new way of using photodynamic therapy as, for the first time, we’ll develop drug molecules that target tumour cells in lungs. If successful, we anticipate that it can be used on patients in the next 10-15 years.”

*Figure from Cancer Research UK – Deaths from lung cancer in the UK, 2014