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John Neoptolemos

Researcher John Neoptolemos profile image

Better treatments for pancreatic cancer

University of Liverpool
The Duncan Building
Daulby Street
Liverpool
L69 3GA

Web: Lab website

About John Neoptolemos

Professor John Neoptolemos is Head of the Division of Surgery and Oncology at the University of Liverpool. He combines his clinical work with lab-based research and also runs the Clinical Trials Unit at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital. Professor Neoptolemos is an international expert in the treatment of pancreatic cancer and is researching how survival can be improved for people with this disease.

The team is currently running a number of important clinical trials testing new combinations of surgery and chemotherapy for treating pancreatic cancer.

Professor Neoptolemos' team is also developing new tests to help diagnose and treat pancreatic cancer. This will help to ensure that patients are treated promptly, and in the way that will work best for them. And the group is investigating how pancreatic cancer can be inherited in some families.

Cancer vaccine

Together with Dr Gary Middleton from St Luke's Cancer Centre in Guildford, Professor Neoptolemos is currently coordinating the TeloVac trial for people with advanced pancreatic cancer. This is testing the effects of an exciting new pancreatic cancer vaccine that is designed to stimulate the body's own immune system to attack the cancer cells.

Immune system cells usually search for and kill abnormal cells. But they don't always recognise cancer cells as being abnormal when they should. The new vaccine, called GV1001, works by teaching immune cells to recognise pancreatic cancer cells.

The vaccine targets a protein called telomerase, which is overactive in 90 percent of advanced pancreatic cancers. It works by priming the immune cells to specifically recognise and destroy cancer cells that have too much telomerase.The trial aims to study 1,110 people with pancreatic cancer across the UK and began recruiting patients in 2007.

By adding the new vaccine to standard chemotherapy, the researchers hope to create a better standard of care for this disease. If the results show benefit, this combination could be adopted more widely, making it an important new approach to tackling this disease.

Genomics Initiative

Professor Neoptolemos is also investigating the genetics of pancreatic cancer to find out how certain changes can affect the way different patients respond to chemotherapy drugs. This research is part of Cancer Research UK’s Genomics Initiative – a set of groundbreaking projects using the latest high-tech gene sequencing machines to track down the genetic faults driving different types of cancer. These projects will bring us a step closer to more personalised cancer treatment – making sure patients receive the treatments that will work best for them.

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Other research projects by John Neoptolemos