A cancer treatment that teaches the body to attack tumours is to be trialled on colorectal patients after a Consultant from Royal Surrey County Hospital has been awarded two multi-million pound research grants.
Dr Tony Dhillon, who is a Medical Oncologist, has been granted the money by two American pharmaceutical companies to investigate whether immunotherapy can improve the outcomes for bowel cancer patients.
Combined, the two studies will involve almost 500 patients and will look at whether the drugs are effective in stimulating the body’s natural defences into destroying tumours.
Currently, patients with early stages colorectal cancer – before it has had chance to spread to other organs – have around a 75 per cent chance of being cured.
It is hoped that the findings could change the way that colorectal patients are treated around the world.
“A lot has been written about immunotherapy in recent months, but this is the first time these drugs have been used in early colon cancer and before surgery,” said Dr Dhillon, who is a specialist in colorectal, liver and pancreatic cancer.
“The study will focus on those patients where the tumour appears very attractive to their immune system.
“We anticipate that the drugs will re-educate the patient’s immune system to recognise the tumour as foreign and attack it.”
Only 22 per cent of patients with colorectal cancer will be suitable to take part in the trials.
Dr Dhillon, who is also a senior lecturer in Oncology at Surrey University, said the research would be focused on a small group of patients to help scientists better understand the biology of the disease.
It is anticipated that the smaller of the two studies will start within six month, with the larger getting underway next year.
“The finds of both of these studies have the potential to change how we treat colorectal cancer around the world,” said Dr Dhillon.
“It is a really coup for both myself and the Royal Surrey to receive this funding.”