New fund for cancer research in Sheffield announced

28 April 2021

The future of cancer research in Sheffield has received a significant boost following the creation of a new fund.

Yorkshire Cancer Research and the University of Sheffield have worked together to develop the fund, made possible following the success of three cancer drugs discovered at the university with funding from the charity. 

Following clinical trials, the drugs have now become tailored treatments for cancer patients with hereditary cancers and are undergoing further trials to treat a wider range of cancer types.

The new fund is expected to support cancer research at the university for at least the next decade.

Professor Koen Lamberts, President and Vice-Chancellor for the University of Sheffield, said: “Sheffield is uniquely positioned to develop and implement novel cancer treatments and by working together with Yorkshire Cancer Research we will be able to secure further achievements from early-stage discovery science to programmes with an immediate benefit to patients.

“Early work pioneered right here in the city is now saving thousands of lives around the world. This important fund will allow the University to grow its world leading cancer research capability significantly and develop a new generation of cancer researchers for Yorkshire.” 

In 2005, Yorkshire Cancer Research funded research at the university which successfully demonstrated how PARP inhibitors could be used as a tailored treatment for patients with BRCA mutations.

The discovery was patent-protected and licensed to KuDOS, a pharmaceutical company later acquired by AstraZeneca, who continued the development process and undertook successful clinical trials. This resulted in the development of three drugs called Lynparza, Zejula and Talzenna.

Lynparza – a PARP inhibitor also known as olaparib – became the first cancer drug targeting an inherited genetic fault to be made available on the NHS.

It is currently available to some women with ovarian cancer in the UK and has been approved by the European Commission as a treatment for breast cancer. In September 2020, the drug was recommended as a treatment for prostate cancer following a clinical trial which showed the treatment could significantly reduce the risk of death in some patients.

Dr Kathryn Scott, Chief Executive at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: “It’s thanks to the generosity of the people of Yorkshire that the charity was able to fund the initial project in Sheffield that led to the discovery of PARP inhibitors which are now helping people with ovarian, breast and prostate cancer throughout the world.

“We now have the opportunity to launch this fund in Yorkshire and help the people who made this happen. We exist to save lives across Yorkshire – right here, right now – and the funds raised from Lynparza will help to ensure everyone in our county has the best possible chance of a long and healthy life with, without and after cancer.”

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