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News from Lungs for Living

News from Lungs for Living

The Lungs for Living team continue to lead ground breaking research into early lung cancer through to advanced metastatic disease and the processes that drive progression.

Over the past year, the Lungs for Living research team has published 12 scientific papers and presented their work at several prestigious international conferences. In early 2019, Professor Janes and his colleagues published a detailed molecular analysis of early precancerous lesions in Nature Medicine, defining differences between lesions that progress to invasive cancer and those that regress to normal. They showed that this profile could be used to predict with a high degree of accuracy which lesions will progress to cancer. Important new discoveries are being made and these findings are now being investigated further, with the hope that an increased understanding of the processes that drive cancer progression will lead to the development of novel therapies or better clinical management.

Principle Investigator, Dr Celine Denais, continues to work on her ground breaking study, Lung-on-a-Chip, which focuses on the genetic and chemical processes of human pre-cancerous cells. Using recent advances in engineering devices, Lung-on-a-Chip explores and studies the physical, bio- chemical and cellular cues of the lung. By developing a microfluidic device that is able to mimic the human lung microenvironment and recapitulating the biochemical complexity of its surrounding, the team is able to dissect the ability of the lung epithelial cells to adapt, develop within their microenvironment, and more importantly interact with the extracellular matrix (ECM) under mechanical constraint (mimicking the way that lungs stretch due to the movement of breathing).

An initial prototype chip was designed but revealed some issues. Several designs and modifications have now been made and the team is performing further testing to ensure that the device is stretching sufficiently to fully replicate the breathing motion of lungs. Celine has received amazingly generous donations from trusts, foundations and individual donors, and is very grateful for their support that has enabled her to continue her ground breaking research.

Addressing the need for novel treatments

This year has also seen the opening of our MRC-funded clinical trial, TACTICAL. This exciting first in human trial investigates the safety and efficacy of MSCTRAIL for the treatment of advanced non-small cell lung cancer. With 70% of patients presenting with advanced disease and current therapies only improving life expectancy by a number of months there is a real need for novel treatments.

This advanced therapy, which was developed by Lungs for Living and manufactured at the UCL Centre for Cell, Gene and Tissue therapeutics, consists of mesenchymal stromal cells (from umbilical cords) which are modified to express TRAIL, a targeted anti-cancer therapy. The preclinical research carried out by the Lungs for Living team has shown that these cells home towards and kill cancer cells leaving healthy ones unaffected.

The team is currently treating patients in Phase I and if this is successful they will move onto Phase II, a larger multicentre randomised placebo controlled trial.

Following on from the TACTICAL trial, the Lungs for Living team were successful in receiving a grant from InnovateUk and the UCL Technology fund to set up and run the trial in malignant pleural mesothelioma. This trial, METEOR, will be a multicentre randomised placebo controlled trial that they look forward to opening in early 2020.

We are grateful for all the support that we have received for Lungs for Living.