Past research into rare cancers

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Our milestones

Our scientists have made vital contributions to finding new and better ways to treat, diagnose and prevent rare cancers. Below are a few of our most important discoveries.

1990s – We show how a virus called HHV8 causes a rare type of cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma, which tends to affect people with suppressed immune systems (our researchers first spotted the link through treating people with AIDS).

1963 – One of our researchers is the first to use a combination of two drugs – methotrexate and mercaptopurine – to treat a rare cancer that can occur in pregnancy called choriocarcinoma. This transformed the outlook for women with this disease and survival doubled within a few years. Today, almost all women are cured. 

2010 – The results from a large clinical trial we helped fund show that a combination of radiotherapy with chemotherapy increases the number of people who survive anal cancer.  

1993 – We show that using antibiotics to get rid of a bacterium called H. pylori can effectively treat a type of stomach lymphoma that’s slow-growing and at an early stage, sparing some patients from harsher treatments.

2002 – We contribute to a major breakthrough in the treatment of a rare cancer of the gut called gastro-intestinal stromal tumour (GIST), showing that the drug imatinib (Glivec), is an effective treatment for certain types of the disease. Our research also underpinned thie development of imatinib.

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