Research Cancer Cells

We are seeking financial support for research being conducted by Dr Francis Mussai, Clinical Senior Lecturer/ Consultant in Paediatric Oncology at Birmingham Children’s Hospital and the University of Birmingham.

Research Background

Research within the Mussai laboratory shows that cancer cells may be particularly dependent on one nutrient for survival. The nutrient (an amino acid) also plays an important role in keeping the immune system activated to fight cancer cells.

The laboratory is investigating the biological mechanisms of how solid cancers, such as neuroblastoma and brain tumours, or leukaemias (ALL and AML) use up this nutrient from the body to switch off the immune system and allow the cancer cells to grow.

 Building on these findings his team of scientists at the University of Birmingham are now collaborating with small pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs to starve cancer cells of nutrients, and secondly to reactivate the immune system to kill cancer cells. 

Future research

Building on their success so far future research will involve looking at how these new therapies can be combined with standard chemotherapy, and can be moved from laboratory testing into clinical trials.

More research is also required to understand other ways in which children’s cancers escape being destroyed by the immune system, which normally is a very powerful way of protecting the body.

This work has been led by Dr Mussai in collaboration with teams in Birmingham, Oxford, and London.

Dr Mussai would like to say a particular thank-you to the many patients and families from these hospitals have donated precious samples of blood and tumours, and to the main fundraisers who provide essential funding to help move the research forwards. He hopes this research will offer significant patient benefit in the future.