Victor Dahdaleh visits Cambridge to see progress in Mesothelioma Research Around £25 million of additional funding leveraged from original Victor Dahdaleh Foundation donation
Research visit to the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research
Back row L–R: Robert Rintoul, Royal Papworth Hospital/University of Cambridge; Stefan Marciniak, University of Cambridge; Joseph Chambers, University of Cambridge; Arsalan Azad, University of Cambridge.
Front row L–R: Joanna Obacz, University of Cambridge; Susana de Abreu, University of Cambridge; Victor Dahdaleh, Victor Dahdaleh Foundation; Penny Woods, British Lung Foundation; Marie Shamseddin, University of Cambridge.
In 2016, the Victor Dahdaleh Foundation made a £5 million donation to the British Lung Foundation (BLF) to fund vital research into mesothelioma, matching UK government funding of £5 million. The donation was the largest ever made to the BLF.
The landmark gift has supported research teams at the University of Leicester, the University of Cambridge and Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, working with the government-funded National Mesothelioma Research Centre at Imperial College London to develop new treatments for the disease.
From that original donation, the BLF and the mesothelioma research community has leveraged nearly £25 million of additional funding into mesothelioma research from a wide variety of sources. This has included awards from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC); a UK cancer charity; a re-insurance firm; together with significant donations in kind.
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer which affects the chest or abdomen and is particularly associated with exposure to asbestos fibres. There are more than 5,400 sufferers in the UK, and numbers have increased over the last four decades.
Recently, Canadian Philanthropist, Victor Dahdaleh visited Cambridge, with British Lung Foundation Chief Executive, Dr Penny Woods, to receive updates on progress with key strands of the research programming: MesobanK (a mesothelioma biobank); the BLF-Royal Papworth Hospital mesothelioma training fellowships; and the mesothelioma organoid project.
The visit was conducted over three sites: Royal Papworth Hospital, the University of Cambridge and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.
At the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research – Marciniak laboratory, a short presentation was made by Dr Robert Rintoul on MesobanK progress and an update on the work of MesobanK research fellows by Professor Stefan Marciniak, together with an opportunity to meet the research fellows themselves and to and discuss their work.
Following a tour of the new Royal Papworth Hospital site, Mr Dahdaleh met with Dr Hayley Francies and Dr Mathew Garnett, the researchers leading the mesothelioma organoid project at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.
On conclusion of the visit, Victor Dahdaleh commented:
‘It is intensely gratifying to see how the original donation that the Foundation made has helped to generate such widespread support and interest into mesothelioma research. Significant progress is being made on many fronts and it was uplifting to hear about the detailed work being undertaken by a very talented and dedicated team of people in so many areas. I would like to thank the British Lung Foundation and Dr Penny Woods for making such a fascinating visit possible.’
For further information on The Victor Dahdaleh Foundation contact Matthew Moth at Madano on t: +44 (0) 207 593 4000 or e: firstname.lastname@example.org
MesobanK enables research by collecting high-quality blood, pleural fluid and tissue samples linked to anonymised clinical information about patients. Established in 2012, continued funding through the BLF and the Victor Dahdaleh Foundation has ensured on-going collection, preparation and distribution of samples from MesobanK. As well as blood, pleural fluid and tissue samples, the team offer access to primary cell lines and a tissue microarray (TMA) with 1,000 patient samples.
However, a sample is only as useful as the data that goes with it. The data provided with MesobanK samples helps researchers understand the donor’s basic characteristics, treatments they have had and their survival status. It supports researchers in making more accurate conclusions about what they see in their research and how this relates to people living with mesothelioma.
The MesobanK team has worked very hard to enrich the data that goes with each sample. They have ensured when a person donates, the key data taken is as complete as possible; they have linked with national records on cancer patients’ treatment and survival; and linked with computed tomography (CT) scans. For a tissue bank to have all this data available in one place, sets it apart as a high-quality facility.
About the Mesothelioma organoid project
Dr Robert Rintoul is working with colleagues at Cambridge University and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute to develop mesothelioma organoids as a model of the disease. Models are very important in a research environment emulating the disease and its processes in laboratory setting. Using cells from mesothelioma patients means models will be very representative of the disease itself, helping researchers to study mesothelioma more accurately and test new treatments.
About MesobanK and BLF-Royal Papworth Hospital mesothelioma training fellowships
Post-doctoral mesothelioma training fellowships support laboratory researchers who have already gained their PhD but need to take the next step in their career. These fellowships are increasing and maintaining the interest of laboratory researchers in the field of mesothelioma research. The generous donation from the Victor Dahdaleh Foundation allows this training to occur.
The first post-doctoral fellow is working on a collaborative project between teams at the University of Leeds and the University of Cambridge assessing the laser-based treatment of mesothelioma. Promising results from this fellowship have been instrumental in securing a large grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
The second post-doctoral fellow has been appointed to work on the mesothelioma organoid project – developing this vital laboratory model for researchers from patient samples. For the first year, they will work in Professor Stefan Marciniak’s laboratory optimising the conditions for mesothelioma organoid development before moving to work with Dr Mathew Garnett and Dr Hayley Francies at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. The organoid models will be made available to researchers internationally.
A third post-doctoral fellow has been appointed to evaluate the plasma membrane of primary mesothelioma cell lines to identify novel targetable molecules or signalling pathways. They aim to identify molecules that existing therapies can be targeted against or whose expression is crucial to allow mesothelioma cells to grow.