World's first Centre of Excellence for Autoimmunity in Cancer

05 Apr 2011 17:30:08.703

PA 112/11

The world’s first Centre of Excellence for Autoimmunity in Cancer (CEAC) is to be established at The University of Nottingham. Research carried out by CEAC could lead to a revolution in our understanding of the early phase of cancer development and the body’s immune response to it.

Director of CEAC John Robertson, Professor of Surgery in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, is one of the country’s leading experts in breast cancer and autoimmunity in cancer. He will oversee pioneering work in the early detection and management of cancer.

Professor Robertson said: “The formation of CEAC by the University is an endorsement of the science we have pursued over the last 15 years.  It has resulted in the first blood autoantibody test for the early detection of (lung) cancer.  I believe the autoantibody technology will lead to earlier detection of most solid cancers as well as help stratify patients for specific anti-cancer treatments.”
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CEAC will house a multi-disciplinary team working in partnership with international collaborators and industry. The science will lead to new insights into the biology of cancer and encourage research aimed at increasing fundamental understanding of the disease. The Centre will also create an outstanding environment for recruitment and training of talented clinical and basic scientists and early career researchers.

This new academic centre of excellence will harness some of the ground breaking research into the body’s immune response to cancer which has been carried out by Professor Robertson over the last 15 years.

Professor Robertson’s work on detection of the human’s autoimmune response to cancer specific antigens is already being developed commercially by the University spin-out company Oncimmune. Using its own state-of-the art technology Oncimmune launched its first test for the early detection of lung cancer, EarlyCDT-Lung, in the USA last year. Initial results have shown the test is proving successful. The test is expected to be launched commercially in the UK later this year.
CEAC has been granted access to Oncimmune’s specialist technology and expertise to allow independent academic research into the mechanisms that lie behind the immune response to cancer.  A number of other studies are planned to further assess the use of the EarlyCDT-Lung test and its use in other solid cancers.

Two world renowned experts in cancer have been appointed to CEAC’s external advisory board.

Dr James Jett, Professor of Medicine, is one of the world’s experts in lung-cancer therapy. He has just joined National Jewish Health after 29 years at the Mayo Clinic Cancer Centre, both leading academic clinical centres in America.

Dr Jett said: “Early diagnosis of lung cancer before it has spread and therefore while curable remains the goal for screening tests. The Early CDT — Lung test is a new technology with the potential to shift our ability to diagnose lung cancer earlier than is currently achieved.  Preliminary data (auditing the use of the test in clinical practice) are promising and consistent with the case-controlled studies. These data indicate that EarlyCDT-Lung test can risk stratify normal versus malignant nodules. I am hopeful that the studies planned by CEAC will validate the test’s clinical performance in a screening context and its cost effectiveness.”

Dr Jett is joined by Peter Boyle, Professor of Epidemiology, who is President, International Prevention Research Institute in Lyon, France. His research lies in cutting-edge scientific discovery into new approaches to cancer treatment to translating information about cancer risk factors into change in population behaviour. Professor Boyle said: “I believe the technology has the potential to change the current paradigm of screening and early diagnosis to an initial blood based test with subsequent confirmation of cancer by more interventional tests. The potential future opportunities to use the technology in selecting patients for prevention therapies is novel and particularly exciting.”

Herb Sewell, Professor of Immunology at The University of Nottingham has been appointed to CEAC’s Scientific Research Committee. He said: “In fostering collaborative interdisciplinary research CEAC aims to speed up the delivery of auto antibody based tests for different types of cancer as well as encouraging research in wider aspects of autoimmunity linked to this disease.”

The Scientific Research Committee will be led by Professor Saul Tendler, an expert in Biophysical Chemistry at The University of Nottingham.

Professor Tendler, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, said: “This will be the first time that international expertise and state-of-the-art technology in the field of autoimmunity in cancer has been brought together under one roof. It will produce transformational research of the highest standard and contribute to the ‘world changing research which The University of Nottingham has become renowned for across the globe.”

Full statements by Professor James Jett, Professor Peter Boyle and Professor Herb Sewell are also available on request.

— Ends —

Notes to editors
: The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘Europe’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking, a league table of the world’s most environmentally-friendly higher education institutions, which ranked Nottingham second in the world overall.

The University is committed to providing a truly international education for its 40,000 students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around its campuses in the UK and Asia.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranked the University 7th in the UK by research power. The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health.

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Oncimmune® was founded in 2003 to commercialise technology developed in the laboratories of Professor John Robertson, a Professor of Surgery at The University of Nottingham. Research continues in the laboratory of Professor Roberston, while development of products is funded through Oncimmune®, Ltd.

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More information is available from Professor John Robertson on +44 (0) 1332 724881,
Lindsay Brooke

Lindsay Brooke - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

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