Huddersfield scientists will work with The Laura Crane Youth Cancer Trust to create a treatment for cancer in young people

CANCER researchers at the University of Huddersfield aim to develop new treatments specifically for young people and they will be aided in their quest by financial support from a locally-based charity.

The Laura Crane Youth Cancer Trust was founded in Huddersfield in 1996 and commemorates a local girl who lost her fight against cancer at the age of 17.  It is now a national charity, still based in Huddersfield, that funds medical research specifically into cancer affecting teenagers and young adults. 

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The University’s Dr Nik Georgopoulos is developing a new form of treatment based on the protein molecule named CD40 (Cluster of Differentiation 40), which destroys cancerous tumours without harming healthy cell tissue.  When the Trust learned about this breakthrough it was keen to offer support to Dr Georgopoulos and his team.

Its funding pays for a specially-appointed doctoral researcher, who will centre on how the new treatment regime can be targeted at cancer in young people.  The Laura Crane Youth Cancer Trust will also contribute towards the major upgrade of a scanning device that is crucial to Dr Georgopoulos’s lab research.

He is delighted that his work has a new dimension, thanks to the Trust’s backing.

So far we have looked at cancers that affect mainly adults, so this is a great opportunity for us to delve into cancers affecting mainly young people

Dr Nik Georgopoulos

“We are trying to understand if CD40 is capable of killing tumour cells that specifically originate from people who are younger.  We need to find out if it is possible to develop a therapy especially for them.”

Cyprus-born postgraduate Myria Ioannou has been appointed as the doctoral researcher for the project.  She achieved first class honours in her BSc biology degree at the University of Huddersfield and is currently completing an MSc in cancer immunotherapy at the University of Nottingham. 

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Pictured – University cancer researcher Dr Nik Georgopoulos, the CD40 protein molecule (centre) and schoolgirl Laura Crane

Pamela Thornes, who is manager of The Laura Crane Youth Cancer Trust, explained that funding for the collaboration with the University of Huddersfield comes from the newly-created Jacquie Roeder Research Fund, named after Laura Crane’s mum, who founded the charity.

“Sadly Jacquie lost her own fight against cancer earlier this year.  The Jacquie Roeder Research Fund is our tribute to her, as first and foremost Jacquie set up Laura’s charity to fund research into cancers in the age group 13-24, as there was no other organisation focussing on cancer research into this age group,” said Pamela.

“We are so happy and excited at the prospect of the partnership we are developing and we hope to see it grow in the future.”

Dr Georgopoulos said: “It is fantastic that the Trust has engaged with our University.  Pamela and everyone at the Trust are a group of wonderful people doing an amazing job.  I am fully aware of the effort and dedication it takes to raise funds to support research, therefore I am absolutely delighted and deeply honoured that the charity will be supporting our work.”