Lead researchers: Professor Iain McNeish and Dr James Brenton
Where: The Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre and CRUK Cambridge Centre
BriTROC-2 is a nationwide project to create new, personalised treatments for women diagnosed with High Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer (HGSOC). The team, co-led by Professor Iain McNeish and Dr James Brenton, know this next generation of tailored treatments will be just around the corner once we’ve learnt more about the disease itself.
The next generation of treatment
Personalised medicine is when treatment is customised and matched to the patient. Although HGSOC is one disease, two seemingly identical patients can respond well to different treatments. BriTROC-2’s goal is to give all HGSOC patients personalised care.
The original BriTROC project, led by the same team, discovered why this is: there are tiny genetic differences between ovarian cancer tumours that can occur as the cancer grows. And these differences explain why some cancers respond well, and others poorly, to certain treatments. Previously, these differences made ovarian cancer appear unpredictable and harder to treat. Now, Professor McNeish’s team can turn them to their advantage.
BriTROC scientists made this revelation while investing how ovarian cancer changes over time. To do this, the project established a network of 14 research hubs around the UK to collect tissue samples from hundreds of relapsed cancer patients. This was a major step: it allowed BriTROC scientists to see patterns across more samples than ever before, and meant other researchers now had the means to access and analyse these samples to make their own breakthroughs.
Seven clues for better treatment
BriTROC discovered that one of seven unique ‘signatures’ was being written into ovarian cancer’s DNA as it developed. Each signature, classified by a cluster of tiny genetic changes, offers a vital clue about how the patient should be treated.
Now, BriTROC-2 scientists are putting new samples under the microscope – to better understand these seven clues. By gathering information about the microscopic differences between cancers, underpinning a tumour’s response to treatment, doctors can move away from the ‘one-size-fits all approach’, and give patients treatments that work.