Developing new treatments for ovarian cancer
Professor Frances Balkwill leads the Centre for Cancer and Inflammation at Barts & The London School of Medicine & Dentistry. She is investigating the links between cancer and inflammation, with a particular focus on ovarian cancer. Professor Balkwill aims to use the results from her lab studies to develop new anti-cancer treatments, and her team is involved in several early-phase clinical trials.
Inflammation and cancer
The environment inside and around a tumour contains many cells and molecules that are involved in inflammation, which can help cancer cells grow and survive. It can also encourage tumours to grow new blood vessels to supply oxygen and nutrients to the cancer cells, helping them to spread.
Professor Balkwill's research is looking at how inflammation helps tumours grow. She is investigating the role of two molecules called cytokines that are involved in inflammation. Her previous work has shown that these particular cytokines, TNF-alpha and IL-6, play a key role in inflammation in ovarian cancer and other forms of the disease.
The way in which TNF-alpha and IL-6 promote cancer is not fully understood. Scientists know they are produced by cancer cells during growth and spread but Professor Balkwill aims to clarify exactly how they interact with other molecules in the cancer environment to encourage cancer growth.
Listen to an interview with Professor Balkwill, discussing her research into the immune system and cancer:
Early-stage clinical trials investigating molecules that block the action of TNF-alpha gave promising initial results. This suggests that TNF-alpha may be a useful treatment target. Ongoing clinical trials in women with ovarian cancer are also studying the effect of drugs that block the action of IL-6.
Understanding how inflammation is linked with ovarian cancer will help Professor Balkwill identify who could benefit from this type of treatment. Her research will also establish which treatments could be successfully combined with drugs that block cytokines such as TNF-alpha and IL-6.
Visit MyProjects to watch a video about Professor Balkwill's work and to donate directly to her research.
Other research projects by Frances Balkwill
Funding period: 01 October 2008 to 30 September 2013
Ten Common Genetic Variants Associated with Colorectal Cancer Risk Are Not Associated with Survival after Diagnosis
Clin Cancer Res.2010;16 :3754-3759
Nutlin-3, the small-molecule inhibitor of MDM2, promotes senescence and radiosensitises laryngeal carcinoma cells harbouring wild-type p53
Br J Cancer.2010;103 :186-195