Supporting the

Neuroendocrine Cancer Community

Research – New drug for the treatment of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (PNETs)

Mar 11, 2021

 Kate Lines – NCUK research grant awardee

In 2018, Kate was awarded the NCUK research grant. The aim of the project was to develop a new drug for the treatment of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (PNETs). It has previously been shown that a drug called JQ1, which inhibits the function of a family of proteins called the BET family, could reduce the number of PNET cells in the laboratory. This family of proteins help to control the expression of genes that promote tumour cell growth and prevent tumour cell death, by binding to chemical marks in specific DNA regions, also known as epigenetic regulation. Therefore, by inhibiting the activity of the BET proteins it is possible to prevent the cell growth and increase cell death.

Although JQ1 has shown promising results in PNETs, similar to a chemotherapy, it can act on any cell that expresses the BET proteins, and therefore may have side effects. The focus of the study was therefore to generate a new drug that specifically targets JQ1 only to NET cells or tissues – using a man made version of the hormone somatostatin, called a somatostatin analogue. Receptors that somatostatin binds to are only expressed in certain endocrine tissues, and are seen in high levels in PNETs. Therefore by making a drug with a somatostatin analogue joined to JQ1, the plan was to target JQ1 only to the PNET cells. By testing the ability of this new somatostatin-JQ1 drug to reduce the number of PNET cells, the ultimate aim is to use this data to plan a clinical trial of the somatostatin-JQ1 drug in PNET patients.

“I am delighted and very grateful to have been awarded NCUK award at this years UKINETs meeting. I am very much looking forward to beginning the study. As an early career scientist, this grant is especially important as the data generated from the project will (not only help to take treatment for PNETs forward, but will also) help form the basis of my future NET research career”.

Kate Lines, is a PostDoctoral researcher, who works at the Radcliffe Department of Medicine in Oxford, alongside Professor Raj Thakker. Her research focuses on understanding the epigenetic mechanisms causing tumour development in neuroendocrine tissues, and using this information to develop new diagnostic approaches and therapies.

Before starting her postdoctoral work in Oxford she completed an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at the University of Liverpool, before completing her PhD in 2011 at the Barts Cancer Institute in London.

In 2019, Kate was awarded a 3-year Celgene Fellowship to investigate novel therapeutic strategies for pancreatic and pituitary neuroendocrine tumours.

“ . . . throughout my career I have had an interest in studying the molecular mechanisms of cancer, and hope to continue this in my future academic career.”

  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type 1: Latest Insights. Endocrine Reviews (2020)
  • Molecular Genetic Studies of Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors: New Therapeutic Approaches. Endocrinology and Metabolism Clinics of North America (2018)
  • Epigenetic pathway inhibitors represent potential drugs for treating pancreatic and bronchial neuroendocrine tumors. Oncogenesisi (2017)


Healthcare Science Week is an annual week-long programme designed to promote the amazing work of healthcare science professionals and highlight the difference they make to patients lives. This year, it takes place between 5 and 14 March.

Science and technology is vital in modern healthcare and can change lives for the better.

Research is one aspect where science and technology comes together not only to expand our knowledge but also explore new ways of delivering healthcare – whether through improved understanding of ‘the patient experience’ to new advances in knowledge to the development of innovative medicines and technologies.

To celebrate Healthcare Science Week we would like to share with you how your donations have made a number of complex and groundbreaking pilot research projects possible.

(Find out more about our Research Grants and the work your donations help us support here)