AICR funded research sparks discovery
Cancer research can be seen as a global web of scientists constantly exchanging expertise and insight, applying new knowledge to old problems. It’s something we try to play our part in enabling, as we believe a free flow of information helps us move more quickly towards new ways of tackling cancer.
But even we were surprised when a past AICR grantholder got in touch with us to say that work he did with an AICR grant contributed towards the extraordinary clinical trial described in this story.
You may have seen the headlines in early July 2013; a group of Italian researchers based at the San Raffaele Institute in Milan developed a sophisticated method of gene therapy and used it to successfully treat three young children with a serious genetic disorder. The children are now past the age where symptoms would have been expected to show, and it appears that they have been cured of the genetic disease that would otherwise have been fatal in early childhood.
Now I’m sure you must be thinking “this is great news, but it isn’t cancer research so how can AICR have contributed?”
Well, one of the lead scientists, Dr Eugenio Montini, was awarded an AICR grant in 2009 to probe for potential liver cancer genes using a modified virus, not unlike the one used in the trial. When the researchers analysed where the gene therapy virus had slotted itself into the patients’ DNA - a very important step in making sure the gene therapy was safe – they did it using a technique developed during Dr Montini’s AICR-funded project.
Our mission at AICR is to support basic and translational cancer research, the very earliest stages of the research pipeline where new discoveries are made and innovative technology developed. It can be difficult to predict where that kind of early research will lead after the period of our grant and isn’t unusual for discoveries to have impact on areas of research way outside those originally being investigated. This is a terrific example of how that can work in practice.
We are delighted to have supported some of the technology that underpinned this clinical trial, and to have helped, in a small way, create a brighter future for those three families. It is our mission to achieve the same for people affected by cancer, and we look forward to sharing some more exciting success stories with you in the coming months.
Link to the original research paper: https://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2013/07/10/science.1233158.abstract