Deeside doctor leads pioneering research

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Pioneering cancer research funded by local charity, Friends of ANCHOR, is being taken to the global stage later this month.

Led by Banchory’s Dr Russell Petty, the top researcher and clinician in Aberdeen for gastrointestinal cancers, and his research team from the University of Aberdeen and NHS Grampian, the three-year research project has identified ground-breaking findings which could fundamentally change the face of cancer treatment.

Out of 1000 research studies submitted by research fellows across the globe, the North-east team’s research has been ranked the ‘top billed’ presentation by international experts at the upcoming world-leading international conference for gastrointestinal cancers, the American Society of Clinical Oncology Gastrointestinal Cancer Symposium in San Francisco.

Several thousand delegates from around the world will fill the conference to hear Russell and his team report on the fundamental findings from their research which began in December in 2007 and concluded in December last year.

The study involved 40 patients with oesophageal and gastric cancer in NHS Grampian. The research team used Gene Chip technology to profile the entire genetic information of the patients’ cancers, as well as PET scans to image how metabolically active the tumours were. The study has identified a ’gene signature’ from the tumours that can be used alongside PET scans to predict which patients will and won’t respond to chemotherapy treatment. It also identified some genes which may be useful targets for more effective new drugs in the future.

Dr Petty said: “These results are an important step towards our goal of individualising and ultimately optimising treatment for each patient. This will help us to move towards a situation where we can ensure that patients avoid any unnecessary treatment that would prove ineffective to ultimately maximise the chances of treatment success in each case.”

A particularly significant finding identified that the expression of the leptin gene in cancers, which is known to play a key role in regulation of body weight, appears to be important in determining whether patients’ cancerous tumours will respond to treatment or not.

The project was funded by Friends of ANCHOR which supports cancer and haematology care in the region through fundraising for the main cancer care facility in the North-east, the ANCHOR Unit at ARI.