Tue, 30 Mar 2010
Cancer researchers at the University of East Anglia have made an advance in our understanding of head and neck cancers - thanks to funding from a Lowestoft family devastated by the disease.
Funded by the Anthony Long Charitable Trust and the Big C Appeal, the UEA study identifies a number of previously unknown enzymes which are likely to cause head and neck cancer. The enzymes, known as proteinases, are known to influence tumour growth and it is hoped the discovery will ultimately lead to improved prediction, diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
The Long family of Lowestoft set up the Anthony Long Charitable Trust after Tony Long was diagnosed with cancer of the Parotid Gland - a salivary gland in the neck. Despite surgery to remove the tumour, and periods of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, the cancer spread to the lungs and Mr Long died in 2003, aged 60, after a six-year-battle against the disease.
Tony Long joined the family business, Longs Dairies, after leaving school and was director of the firm until it was sold to Dairy Crest in 1999. A well respected businessman, he was also a semi-professional musician, entertaining audiences in the area for more than 30 years.
“We decided to form the Anthony Long Charitable Trust when it became obvious that his was an unusual type of cancer and insufficient research was being carried out in the field of head and neck cancers generally,” said Mr Long’s widow Janet.
“The survival rate is well below that of most other cancers and not enough is known about how it is formed and how to treat it. Hopefully – by helping to fund cutting edge research at UEA - we can work to achieve better survival rates for future sufferers.”
Head and neck cancers, which include tumours of the nose, mouth and throat, are among the most aggressive forms of cancer. They affect half a million new patients worldwide each year, yet the causes in most cases remain unknown and, unless detected early, mortality rates are high.
The Antony Long Charitable Trust has funded a number of projects under the guidance of Prof Dylan Edwards, a leading cancer specialist at UEA’s School of Biological Sciences, and colleagues at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH). These include helping to fund a postgraduate researcher at UEA, an oncology nurse at NNUH, and a study into the symptoms of head and neck cancer at NNUH by Mr Long’s oncologist, Craig Martin.
Future projects will include a NNUH study into the lasting effects of head and neck cancers and the appointment of a senior ENT lecturer at the James Paget University Hospital.
“Though still in its early stages, our research is already significantly improving our knowledge of this little understood but devastating form of cancer,” said Prof Edwards who led the new study. “Without the generous funds provided by the family of Tony Long, none of this work would be possible.”
‘Expression Profiles and Clinical Correlations of Degradome Components in the Tumor Microenvironment of Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma’ by A Stokes, J Joutsa, R Ala-aho, M Pitchers, C Pennington, C Martin, D Premachandra, Y Okada, J Peltonen, R Grenman, H James, D Edwards and V-M Kahari is published in the US journal Clinical Cancer Research on March 22.