Medicine, Nursing and Allied Health Professions


The team will explore the underlying molecular cause of mesenteric fibrosis, as well as develop new diagnostic and imaging tools to treat the condition

$1.2 million to find new treatment for rare cancer

A new grant of $1.2 million (£880,000) from The Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation (NETRF) is funding a collaboration involving the University of Exeter to find the cause of a rare form of cancer, and unlock new treatment pathways.

The Collaborative Petersen Accelerator Award will fund the study of mesenteric fibrosis – a rare cancer which acts like a scar tissue, connecting tissues that are not normally linked.  This can cause blockages in the small intestine.

The team, led by University College London (UCL), also involves the Royal Free Hospital (RFH), University of Exeter and Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam.

The team will explore the underlying molecular cause of mesenteric fibrosis, as well as develop new diagnostic and imaging tools to treat the condition.

Mesenteric fibrosis is an increasingly recognised problem in patients with small intestinal neuroendocrine tumours, which can develop I any organ and affects the cells that release hormones into the blood stream. The condition is poorly understood and has no medical treatment. It is a major cause of intestinal complications including abdominal pain and bowel obstruction, as well as ‘strangling’ blood supply to the gut which not only causes pain but affects the ability to absorb food.

Chrissie Thirlwell, Mireille Gillings Professor of Cancer Genomics at the University of Exeter Medical School, will lead the analysis of epigenetics, which will establish the extent to which the behaviour of genes if influenced through the impact of the environment and lifestyle.

Professor Thirlwell said: “I’m delighted that this funding could provide answers for a group of patients for whom there is currently no treatment. This collaborative study aims to determine the predictive markers which can identify patients that might require surgery, in a ‘personalised’ way. By understanding the cause of mesenteric fibrosis we hope to develop targets to try and stop this process.”

Martyn Caplin, Professor of Gastroenterology and Tumour Neuroendocrinology at Royal Free Hospital and University College London, said: “For rare cancers it’s so important to have collaboration and we are fortunate for this research programme to have internationally recognised experts across, University College London, Exeter University and Erasmus Amsterdam. We are excited that we can really make an impact with this research to help our patients.”

The grant is part of $2.62 million of funding announced by the NETRF, to advance research aimed at finding new and innovative treatments for this uncommon cancer.

Date: 4 February 2021

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