Now this may seen strange to you as you read this, but we have decided to try to cause cancer (in the laboratory) in order to find the best way to treat it.  The big problem with a tumour is that it contains many different cell types, some of which are more dangerous than others – for example the cancer stem cells I have written about before.  However, by the time we get such cancers from patients to study, they may have been around for more than 20 years, steadily accumulating changes to their genes all this time.

Current treatments attack the most common changes, but we have found that the most important cancer causing mutations may be much rarer.  So it’s often a case of not seeing the wood (the important changes) for the trees (the noise which accumulates over time).

With Charity Soul support we have made a new technique known as gene editing (or clipping the genes) work in normal cells from human prostates.  This is really exciting, and places our abilities at the cutting edge of modern genetics.  Lots of scientists speak about wanting to do this, but with your support we have achieved it!

So now the plan is to use the gene clipping to accumulate changes in normal cells until we create a cancer.  This way we will be able to find the dangerous changes from the passengers.  We are working from a vast catalogue of changes, discovered recently by an international consortium of laboratories.  So not only will we know how to create a cancer, we will have the ideal system in which to test new treatments.

June 2016
Prof Norman J Maitland – Director of The Cancer Research Unit, University of York