Supporting the

Neuroendocrine Cancer Community

NCUK Research Grants

Complex and groundbreaking pilot research projects made possible through your support. Getting research into Neuroendocrine Cancer off the ground can be challenging, and our ‘prime pumping’ grants can lead to much larger international grants. Three of our research grants so far have done just this.

Our research grants are funded through our dedicated Clinical Fund. Our grants are open to all healthcare professionals in the UK with no geographical restrictions. Our peer review process is dependent on the size and complexity of the study: for clinical pilot studies we have a dedicated peer review group made up of specialist NET physicians, researchers, a nurse and a patient. All reviewers are external to the investigators host institution. The group members will be pulled together based on the applications received. It is not a static membership. For our quality of life and psychosocial research we have a group comprised of psychotherapists, a nurse, a medic, 2 patients and 2 carers. Our epidemiology work is run through a steering committee including staff from Neuroendocrine Cancer UK.

Neuroendocrine Cancer UK is a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) non-commercial Partner. This means the studies that we fund may be eligible to access the NIHR Study Support Service which is provided by the NIHR Clinical Research Network. The NIHR Clinical Research Network can now support health and social care research taking place in non-NHS settings, such as studies running in care homes or hospices, or public health research taking place in schools and other community settings. Read the full policy: Eligibility Criteria for NIHR Clinical Research Network Support.

In partnership with your local R&D office, we encourage you to involve your local NIHR Clinical Research Network team in discussions as early as possible when planning your study. This will enable you to fully benefit from the support available through the NIHR Study Support Service. To find out more, please visit: www.nihr.ac.uk/study-support-service

If your study involves NHS sites in England you will need to apply for Health Research Authority Approval. For guidance on submitting an application please visit: www.hra.nhs.uk.
 

2020 Recipient

We are delighted to award the 2020 NCUK grant to Dr Marc Ooft, Consultant Histopathologist, Kings College Hospital.

His research alongside the NET GeCIP group is focusing on ‘Improving patient stratification through epigenetic and tumour microenvironmnet analysis of the 100,000 Genomes project neuroendocrine tumour cohort.’

We would also like to thank Mr P Moxham for his generous donation towards our research grant.

2019 Recipients

Prof Mark Pritchard, Professor of Gastroenterology, Institute of Translational Medicine,
University of Liverpool and Head of Liverpool ENETS Centre of Excellence at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

The aim of this project is to develop and characterise primary cultures from the tumours as well as the adjacent unaffected mucosa of patients with low grade type 1 and type 3 gastric NETs. These gastroids will then be cryopreserved in order to provide tools that can be used for future investigations about the pathogenesis and treatment of gastric NETs. We believe that we have the unique combination of a large cohort of patients with gastric NETs and the required laboratory expertise to successfully complete this project.

2018 Recipients

The TRACERx – (TRAcking Cancer Evolution through therapy (Rx))

One of the winners of the UKINETs/NPF grants was one of the TRACERx team. We are delighted that Lung NETs will now be included in this research project. Want to know more about TRACERx? Read below….

The TRACERx (TRAcking Cancer Evolution through therapy (Rx)) lung study is a multi-million-pound research project taking place over nine years, which will transform our understanding of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and take a practical step towards an era of precision medicine. The study will uncover mechanisms of cancer evolution by analysing the intratumour heterogeneity in lung tumours from approximately 850 patients and tracking its evolutionary trajectory from diagnosis through to relapse. At £14 million, it’s the biggest single investment in lung cancer research by Cancer Research UK, and the start of a strategic UK-wide focus on the disease, aimed at making real progress for patients.

Led by Professor Charles Swanton at UCL, the study will bring together a network of experts from different disciplines to help integrate clinical and genomic data and identify patients who could benefit from trials of new, targeted treatments. In addition, it will use a whole suite of cutting edge analytical techniques on these patients’ tumour samples, giving unprecedented insight into the genomic landscape of primary and metastatic tumours and the impact of treatment upon this landscape.

In future, TRACERx will enable us to define how intratumour heterogeneity impacts upon cancer immunity throughout tumour evolution and therapy. Such studies will help define how the clinical evaluation of intratumour heterogeneity can inform patient stratification and the development of combinatorial therapies incorporating conventional, targeted and immune-based therapeutics.

Intratumour heterogeneity is increasingly recognised as a major hurdle to achieve improvements in therapeutic outcome and biomarker validation. Intratumour genetic diversity provides a substrate for tumour adaptation and evolution. However, the evolutionary genomic landscape of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and how it changes through the disease course has not been studied in detail.

The other worthy winner was Kate Lines, a PostDoctoral researcher, who works at the Radcliffe Department of Medicine in Oxford, alongside Professor Raj Thakker. She is continuing here work on molecular genetics in pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours.

“I am delighted and very grateful to have been awarded NET patient foundation 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 help form the basis of my future NET research career”.
 
The aim of the project is to develop a new drug for the treatment of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (PNETs). We have previously 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 we were able 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 this study is therefore to generate a new drug that specifically targets JQ1 only to NET cells or tissues. To do this we are 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, we plan to target JQ1 only to the PNET cells. We will test the ability of this new somatostatin-JQ1 drug to reduce the number of PNET cells. If successful, the ultimate aim is to use this data to plan a clinical trial of the somatostatin-JQ1 drug in PNET patients.”

2016 Recipient
Congratulations to Christodoulos Pipinikas, the recipient of our 2016 award, which will be funding this exciting project:

Using an integrated approach combining data generated through the use of different, advanced molecular tools, we have previously demonstrated that neuroendocrine tumours of the pancreas and gastrointestinal tract are highly epigenetically dysregulated and have identified several altered biological pathways and genes that may form the basis for the development of novel therapeutic targets. In addition, our group has identified specific molecular disease subtypes associated with a significant impact on patients’ survival, indicating that these may benefit from different treatments. Using a similar approach, we would like to extend our understanding of the key molecular events involved in the development and progression of bronchopulmonary neuroendocrine tumours (BP-NETs). BP-NETs represent a significant disease burden with socioeconomic extensions due to their increased incidence and decreased 5-year survival rates. BP-NETs comprise approximately 20-25% of all lung cancers and represent a spectrum of tumours arising from neuroendocrine cells of the bronchopulmonary epithelium. Tumour classification into the correct histological sub-group is strongly predictive of patients’ prognosis but relies on few, difficult to reproduce pathological parameters which are often affected by a high inter-observer variability. Therefore, the aim of this project is to identify novel and accurate molecular tools in order to improve the classification of these tumours. This, in turn, will provide better prognostic information and help with choosing more appropriate treatments. In addition, we aim to study the underlying pathogenic mechanisms involved in disease development and progression through the use of large-scale integrated omics analyses.

2015 Recipient

Jorge Barriuso who works with Prof. Juan Valle at the Christie Hospital was awarded £30,000. The aim of the project is to identify predictive genetic markers of exceptional response to targeted therapies, therefore allowing treatment stratification. Samples from the Christie NET biobank would be used for this pilot study.

This year the £30,000 grant will be funded solely by the NET Patient Foundation, the details and timeline for applying will be posted on the UKINETs and NET Patient Foundation websites in July 2016. The successful applicant will be invited to present their project and results at the UKINETs annual meeting.

2014 Recipients

Dr Davlinder Mandair is a trainee gastroenterologist who is currently undertaking a PhD under the supervision of Prof Tim Meyer, Prof Martin Caplin and Dr Chrissie Thirlwell at the UCL Cancer Institute in London.

The project builds on previous work conducted in Prof Meyer’s Lab which demonstrated, for the first time, that circulating tumour cells (CTCs) were detectable in the blood of patients with a range of NETs, and that their presence indicated an adverse prognosis. Technology has now advanced to the extent that detailed molecular characterisation can be conducted on single cells and this project will compare the genetic changes seen in primary tumour tissue with that of CTCs and also with cfDNA (pieces of DNA that arise from the tumour and can be found circulating in the blood stream).

If we can show that CTCs and cfDNA does indeed accurately represent the tumour, then we will be able to track how the tumour evolves over time and during treatment. This may allow clinicians treating patients with NETs to select the appropriate therapy and to anticipate the emergence of resistance. As cancer therapy becomes increasingly personalised, it is important that we can undertake this type of analysis so that patients can benefit fully from the new drugs that target specific cancer pathways.

Prof Ramage is a Consultant Physician in Gastroenterology and Hepatology, and lead clinician for the Neuroendocrine Tumour Service at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

The project will study the NETs that were identified in the Colorectal NET and the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme (BCSP). The aim is to understand how these were identified, how they were investigated and how they were treated.

The Bowel Cancer screening programme has screened 1 million people using faecal occult blood (FOB -blood in the stool) testing and 17,500 colonoscopies have been performed. Overall, 7.8% (women) and 11.6% (men) of the colonoscopies detected a colorectal (CR) cancer. However, the data regarding the NET tumours that were identified has not been analysed.

The incidence of CR NET in the general population is thought to be 1.3 per 100,000. The incidence in patients with positive FOB is unknown but CR cancer incidence is 46 per 100,000 in England and thus NET incidence might be 46/1.3 times less likely to be found than CR cancer. This would be 35.4 times less likely which would equate to 1772/ 35.4= 50 cases. It is also possible that some ileal carcinoids will have been found during colonoscopy, and these are twice as common as CR NET.

This study will identify how many CR and ileal NET were found by screening if screening has any value for earlier diagnosis. It will also establish how many of these were seen by NET specialists.

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Neuroendocrine Cancer UK is a UK wide charity solely dedicated to providing support and information to those affected by Neuroendocrine Cancer.

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