Professor Julian Downward, Associate Research Director Francis Crick Institute in the UK, has revealed at the recently held ‘Recent Perspectives on Cancer Research’ Forum in Sharjah, what could be one of the biggest breakthroughs in lung cancer treatment in recent years.
After two years of dedicated work at the UK Institute’s Sharjah Laboratory, Prof Downward and his team have discovered a potential new drug combination that can dramatically shrink lung tumours in humans and mice.
A strong possibility of using this new breakthrough treatment in human trials in the coming years was also suggested by the professor at the cancer research forum organised yesterday, by Friends of Cancer Patients (FOCP) at the College of Medicine, University of Sharjah.
The UAE civil society organisation convened international and local experts from Cancer Research UK, Francis Crick Institute, Research Institute of Medical Sciences, and University Hospital Sharjah (UHS) to discuss latest scientific advances in cancer research and treatment. The main objective of the forum was to explore stronger collaboration between participating bodies on further research, sharing findings and improving communication to maximise their collective cancer research and treatment efforts.
The forum comes two years after the Sharjah Lab came to fruition following a £500,000 donation by Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Founder and Royal Patron of FOCP, to promote stronger cancer and NCD research. After His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and his Wife, inaugurated the Lab, Professor Downward’s work has taken a giant leap towards the successful treatment of non-small-cell lung cancer. His team has been developing a set of active medicines that have showed successful signs of killing infected lung cells and shrinking tumours. The laboratory is home to 1,250 leading scientists from a variety of disciplines, who are collaboratively utilising and investing their research capacities to find underlying causes of serious non-communicable diseases, particularly cancer, and develop new ways to prevent and treat them.
Downward, also professor-in-charge of the Sharjah Laboratory, addressed the forum, saying: “The establishment of the Sharjah Laboratory at the Francis Crick Institute has enabled us to carry out studies into potential cancer treatments. Recently, we discovered that combining a new class of drug with two other compounds dramatically shrinks lung tumours in mice and human cancer cells. Our results suggest trying this combination in human trials in the coming years. Thanks, in part, to the support of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, the work we are doing could ultimately lead to cancer treatments that delay or even prevent drug resistance.”
Nick Grant, Cancer Research UK’s Executive Director of Strategy and International Partnerships, said: “To beat cancer, it is crucial that we collaborate with institutions and governments around the world, convening the greatest scientific minds wherever they are. This is exemplified in projects like Cancer Research UK’s Grand Challenge Initiative, which offers transformational funding to international, multidisciplinary research teams in pursuit of answers to cancer’s toughest questions. More recently, we have been working with renowned researchers both in the UK and abroad to develop technologies for identifying cancer at its earliest stages, when treatments are more likely to succeed. And here in Sharjah, we have been working in partnership with Friends Of Cancer Patients to learn from each other and work together on approaches that can beat cancer in the UAE, the UK and around the world.”
HE Sawsan Jafar, Chairperson of FOCP Board of Directors, said: “Two years ago, His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, and his wife, Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi, inaugurated the Sharjah Laboratory at the Francis Crick Institute. The scientific research community is proud of Prof Downward and his team’s achievement, which is a realisation of our leadership’s vision to boost international efforts in developing new innovations, which will prevent and treat cancer and other non-communicable diseases”.
She added: “The Institute of Medical and Health Sciences at University of Sharjah has also been leading the way for cancer research in the UAE with its multidisciplinary research teams and studies, to find and develop more advanced and effective cures for a variety of cancers. This forum underscores the vital importance of a collaborative approach to research, which benefits more from knowledge sharing and joint target setting”.
Jafar continued: “Today’s forum coincides with a milestone in Friends of Cancer Patient’s journey which started 20 years ago. UHS has been a longstanding partner to FOCP, working closely jointly for over 7 years to boost its cancer awareness initiatives, most notably the Pink Caravan Ride breast awareness campaign.”
Dr. Hamid Majul Al Nuaimi, Chancellor of the University of Sharjah (UoS), welcomed the British delegation’s visit, saying the cooperation between the FOCP, UoS and the Francis Crick Institute broadens the former’s scientific artillery to face academic education challenges in medical fields and further their global outreach in medical and scientific research. He also note that these new efforts are aligned with the university’s efforts to stay abreast with the latest in global medical research, while also sharing their intelligence and breakthroughs with the international scientific community.
Prof. Qutayba Hamid Al Heialy, Dean of College of Medicine at UoS, welcomed the overseas attendees of the forum and thanked the FOCP for offering the opportunity offer a platform for ideas exchange and discuss collaborative research. He lauded participants for raising awareness about cancer and other NCDs, highlighting the importance of bolstering scientific research, and sharing expertise and achievements for the benifit of the community and healthcare sector.
University of Sharjah presentations
Dr. Azzam Magazachi and Dr. Rifat Hamoudi, Professor and Associate Professor respectively, at the Clinical Sciences Department, University of Sharjah, and Professor Reyad Benderdaf, Clinical Associate Professor, College of Medicine, University of Sharjah, gave presentations on their research findings.
Prof Magazachi’s presentation was titled ‘Gasdermin D hypermethylation inhibits pyroptosis and LPS-induced IL-1β release from the anti-tumor NK92 cells’, while Prof Rifat presented on ‘Understanding the intra-tumoural heterogeneity in breast cancer using a combination of transcriptomic profiling and single cell resolution imaging’. Prof Benderdaf’s presentation shone light on ‘Tumors Profiling in Advanced Cancer Patients’.
The presentations were followed by a round table discussion, which addressed the outcomes of their specialised research studies. The forum’s participants also met with the university’s Msc and PhD students, and were taken on a tour in Research Institute of Medical & Health Sciences (RIMHS) at the University of Sharjah.
Founded in 1999, FOCP is committed to raising cancer awareness and providing moral and financial support to thousands of patients and their families of all ages and nationalities across the UAE. To date, they have offered support to more than 4,500 cancer patients and their families.