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A new project, looking at the effect of blood containing anti-tumour activating cells on liver cancer, has been funded by the Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation (EME) Programme, an MRC and NIHR partnership.


 The number of people affected by liver cancer is increasing, with 4,000 new cases being diagnosed each year. Sadly, many of these patients are not suitable for surgery and will be offered alternative treatment or care.

 In some cases, Transarterial Chemoembolization (TACE) will be offered, which delivers cancer treatment directly to the tumour through minimally invasive means. This involves an injection of a chemotherapy drug directly into the blood vessels supplying the tumour, followed by blockage of these vessels. This process aims to starve the tumour of blood flow and slow its growth. It has also been shown that TACE can stimulate the body’s own anti-tumour immune responses.

 Previous research has given an early indication that this response could be boosted using a type of white blood cell called a dendritic cell. These cells are taken from the patient’s own blood and loaded with proteins from cancer cells before being injected back into the patients’ blood stream.

 Researchers, led by Professor David Adams of the University of Birmingham, will split the participants of the trial into two groups; the first group will receive TACE combined with a low-dose of a drug called cyclophosphamide, which has been shown to deplete regulatory T cells that suppress anti-tumour activity (known as pre-conditioning). The second group will receive the same treatment plus vaccination with the modified dendritic cells. These patients will then receive three further infusions at monthly intervals of the pre-conditioning and vaccination. All participants will have follow-up appointments every three months. Patients on the experimental arm with no disease progression will receive further pre-conditioning and vaccination at three monthly intervals until progression.