I began as a PhD student in the university’s School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences. I developed 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.
My research studies focused on liver tumours. Mortality rates for many cancer types are falling but deaths from liver cancer are expected to rise by nearly 40 per cent by 2030 due to rising alcohol consumption and other risk factors.
Specifically my research involved 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.
My research investigated the efficacy of beads loaded with novel, targeted drugs that could disrupt the mechanisms by which liver tumours sometimes escape destruction. The novel part of my research was the local delivery of these types of drugs.
I was thrilled to have been awarded £80,000 funding from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 to pursue my research. I worked with Biocompatibles UK Ltd, a healthcare company specialising in drug delivery methods and a BTG International group company. The university has a long-standing relationship with BTG that I am happy to be able to continue with this collaboration.