World class cancer research taking place in Chelmsford

Published: 30 May 2006 at 16:46

Ground breaking research into cancer is taking place in Chelmsford which could change the way that the illness is treated. The Helen Rollason Cancer Care Research Laboratory has now attracted interest from scientists all over the world.

Anglia Ruskin University scientists are looking at ways of stopping breast cancer cells from moving into other parts of the body. If the tumour cells stay in the breast they will not prove fatal - but if they move to vital organs the cancer will be much more difficult to treat. The scientists - who are funded by the Helen Rollason Heal Cancer Charity - are looking for early signs that the cells will move. Eventually this work could lead to new treatment being developed to block cells moving.

There is also work taking place to find out why some breast cancer cells are resistant to chemotherapy. Again, they are looking for early signs that a tumour will not respond to chemotherapy. This could mean that patients are not put through gruelling and unnecessary chemotherapy sessions as doctors will know beforehand that it will not work.

The scientists at the University lab, headed up by Dr Louise Alldridge, have developed a unique partnership with Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust which gives them open and continuous access to human breast tissue. They work alongside surgeons in the theatres at Broomfield Hospital to collect the tissue immediately so they are looking at the tumour exactly as it was in the body. The research lab is the only one in the country to collect tissue in this way. So far the lab has collected more than 100 samples and has already started to see positive results in the research projects taking place.

Dr Louise Alldridge said:

"Early results show that what we are doing is valid and may lead to successful discoveries. If we can stop the cells moving, it will save lives."

All the results emerging from the research will be immediately relevant to the human form of breast cancer. Other cancer research laboratories use mice, frogs, fish or human cells which have been taken away from their natural environment and grown on plastic for years.

This research will take much longer as findings will have to be proved later on humans, and many turn out to be irrelevant to the human condition. Because of the way the charity's lab collects its human tissue samples, it has been asked to be a key player in an international project looking at breast cancer.

Dr Alldridge said:

"The techniques that we are using are very new and have only just been discovered. This is why we have interest from scientists all over the world. It's very exciting. We are now carrying out ground-breaking research which isn't taking place anywhere else in the world. And it's local. We are working with local people and local doctors."