Pioneering research creates tools to tackle cancer

Dr Elizabeth Anderson testing samples in the laboratory

Cancer research and education permeates activity across the University and pioneering work is taking place to support patients. In collaboration with partner universities, specialist research institutes and hospital consultants in the UK and internationally, UWE's research is making an important contribution to creating innovative solutions to tackle cancer.

Spotting cancer symptoms: IT solutions to help GPs

“Early diagnosis is essential to help improve cancer survival rates in the UK. GP Sim has been developed to provide an authentic and situated learning experience for GPs to help raise their awareness of the resources available to them to aid diagnosis and provide a safe environment in which to practice their clinical decision making skills. We have a mix of cases, some with early signs of cancer and some without, so that the consultation is not a foregone outcome.” Simon Messer - GP Sim Designer.

Working in collaboration with Avon Somerset and Wiltshire Cancer Services, a team from Health and Applied Sciences have developed an online training innovation, GP Sim, to help GPs learn more about the early signs of cancer and the resources available to help them with diagnosis.

GP Sim avatarGP Sim simulates a consultation between a GP and a patient, and gives the GP a range of possible responses and outcomes that helps to raise awareness of the early signs of cancer.

The online simulation mirrors a standard patient consultation in which the GP can question the patient, represented as an avatar, as well as access the patient’s medical records and other resources to help decision making and diagnosis.

Watch the film about GP Sim to find out more.

Skin cancer: diagnostic skin analyser tool

For the past decade, lab researchers from the Centre for Machine Vision (CMV) have been working on the development and refinement of a skin analyser tool to help GPs observe skin lesions more clearly than is possible with the naked eye.

Dr Lyndon Smith, who has been leading this project said, “Skin cancer is an increasingly common disease that is fatal if not treated; effective treatment being highly dependent on early detection. Our 3D skin analyser has been applied to the analysis of skin lesions, and clinically employed on 900 NHS patients over the last nine years.

“We have been collaborating with clinical specialists at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, to produce this novel low cost hand tool that measures the shapes and texture of skin lesions, which can help with cancer detection.”

The tool uses a technique called photometric stereo to capture and quantify the characteristics of the skin, making it easier for a non specialist to analyse moles and identify suspicious ones.

In the film below, Professor Lyndon Smith describes the workings of the skin analyser devised to help with diagnosis of skin cancer.


Prostate cancer: working towards non-invasive screening

Bio sensing experts are working with consultants at Bristol Urological Institute (BUI) on designing a urine test using biomarkers to detect prostate cancer more accurately than current Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) blood tests and less invasively than template surgery procedures. 

Professor Norman Ratcliffe using the odor reader, a urine test using bio markersProfessor Norman Ratcliffe said,

"We are keen to see if we can confirm whether there are differences in the smell of urine from men with or without prostate cancer. Initial observations are very promising.

We would then build a prototype electronic nose for urine sniffing, which could lead to a simple device for doctors to use.”

Mr David Gillatt, Consultant in Urological Oncology explains, “More than 30,000 men are diagnosed each year and more than 10,000 die from the disease. The research conducted at UWE Bristol is important as the outcomes mean that we may be able to detect more aggressive forms of the disease early on and ensure that these men get life saving treatment. The research could also lead to development of a test to be used as part of a national screening programme which would be a major leap forward.”

Chemotherapy treatment: testing efficacy of drugs

Bio sensing experts are working with partner Randox Laboratories Ltd to devise a single blood test that could show whether or not leukaemia patients will respond to a range of chemotherapy drugs. It is hoped that this test, once developed, will allow medical teams to select the best treatment for each patient so that they do not have to go through treatment unnecessarily.

Liz Anderson testing samples in the labProfessor Vyv Salisbury explains, “A multi-drug test may ensure that a patient receives the right combination of chemotherapy drugs, in the correct dose, to meet their needs and so prevent any delay in effective treatment. We are very fortunate to have highly committed industrial and clinical partners in our project team.”

Lead researcher Dr Elizabeth Anderson stated “We are currently trying to optimise a multi-drug test device to predict in-vitro how patients may respond to clinically relevant doses of combined chemotherapy drugs in the shortest possible time from receipt of the patient blood sample.”

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