David Barford receives £2.1 million Cancer Research UK Programme award

Cambridge researcher awarded over £2 million to develop drugs that stop cancer cells growing.
Dr David Barford

A Cambridge scientist is set to be awarded £2.1million from Cancer Research UK to develop drugs that could stop cancer cells dividing and growing.

David Barford, a Programme Leader at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, will lead a five year project that aims to identify and develop potential new drugs that target the APC/C complex, a group of proteins that play a key role in controlling how cells grow and divide.

When the APC/C complex is not properly regulated it can result in cells growing out of control and this can lead to cancer. But it is thought that the complex could be inhibited and the cancerous cells stopped in their tracks by certain compounds.

Dr Barford has spent 20 years studying the APC/C and this new grant will allow his team to finalise that work. They will study the complex further, in incredible detail, and begin the process of identifying compounds to block it; compounds that could potentially be developed into new cancer treatments in the future.

Dr Barford said: “In theory, we know that the APC/C complex is a good target to block and that doing this could stop cancer cells from growing. But first we have to develop new drug compounds to target the complex and make sure they are able to enter cancer cells if they are to work properly.

“This work could apply to all cancers, but it may turn out that drugs that target the APC/C complex are more effective against certain types of cancer than other – we don’t know that yet.

“We’ve been studying the APC/C complex for twenty years, and it’s very satisfying to have more or less cracked the problem. We have answered most of the questions we set out to answer and know more about the complex than ever before. Now we want to move forward and identify and develop compounds that could lead to potential new drugs to target this complex. Drugs that could ultimately be used as cancer treatments.”

The funding grant is part of Cancer Research UK’s Science Committee Programme Awards. These awards provide scientists with long-term support for broad, multidisciplinary research projects where the aim is to answer questions spanning basic research that can be turned into treatments in the future.

Dr Áine McCarthy, Senior Science Information Officer at Cancer Research UK said: “Researchers like Professor Barford are contributing to our understanding of cancer and this is vital to developing new cancer treatments and tests that could save lives.

“Dr Barford’s exciting research could help scientists develop new drugs to target and inhibit this group of proteins, causing cancer cells to die. It’s still in the early stages, and any new drugs developed will have to first be tested in clinical trials to make sure they’re safe to use.

“Cancer Research UK is able to fund research like this thanks to donations from our amazing supporters; we’re incredibly grateful to them all for their efforts.”

One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. Money raised by Cancer Research UK’s supporters is vital to helping fund life-saving research looking at new ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating over 200 different types of cancer.

21 Aug 2017