Alice Hagan, a PhD student in the university's School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, is developing a delivery system capable of blocking blood flow to cancerous liver tumours and releasing drugs directly into the targeted area.
The system could improve treatment and reduce damage to surrounding cells and the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy.
Alice, who is working with Biocompatibles UK Ltd, the healthcare company specialising in drug delivery methods and a BTG International group company, has been awarded the funding from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851.
The industrial fellowship was presented by Greg Clark, Minister for Universities and Science. Only eight other students from universities including Imperial College London and Bristol University received this year’s fellowships.
The commission was set up by Prince Albert to organise the world’s first international trade fair, the Great Exhibition, and distribute its profits. The organisation now awards a range of fellowships and grants to support science and engineering research and industrial education across the UK.
Alice’s studies focus on liver tumours. Mortality rates for many cancer types are falling but, she said, deaths from liver cancer are expected to rise by nearly 40 per cent by 2030 due to rising alcohol consumption and other risk factors.
Alice’s research involves microscopic 'beads' which are injected through a catheter into the specific blood vessels supplying liver tumours: "Blood vessels feeding the tumour are blocked, depriving it of oxygen and nutrients, whereas the rest of the liver tissue remains unaffected. The beads then slowly release the drug into the tumour site, giving a sustained dose of chemotherapy to the cancerous region. When the drugs are delivered this way, the amount of drug that reaches the rest of the body is greatly reduced, meaning fewer side effects for the patient.