Mesothelioma UK Research Grants
Research we've funded
Mesothelioma UK has funded 7 completed research projects to date with further 2 projects funded and in progress. This page will be updated with details of each project and the outcomes.
Addressing hypoxia as a new target for treatment of asbestos induced cancer
This project, funded by Mesothelioma UK and awarded through the British Lung Foundation, is investigating the role of oxygen deficiency (hypoxia) and its related biomarkers (hypoxamirs) that are related to a poor prognosis and treatment resistance in malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM).
HypoxiamiRs are molecules of nucleic acid RNA (also called microRNAs or miRNAs) that regulate how cells adapt to oxygen deficiency. Novel imaging techniques confirm that malignant mesothelioma is a largely hypoxic tumor, which suggests a role for microRNAs as therapeutic targets for patients with MPM.
In this project, the research team identified three upregulated miRNAs in hypoxia condition. The results confirmed that the hypoxiamiR miR-210, was significantly upregulated at 6 and 24 hours in hypoxia across all investigated cell lines. Interestingly, the analysis of our RNA microarray results with the predicted miRNA targets database showed that miRNA-210-3p decreases proteins related to DNA repair to increase genomic instability and contribute to the metabolic shift.
The data obtained from cell lines will be validated on patients’ tissue microarrays (TMAs) obtained from MesobanK UK and immunohistochemistry (IHC) slides from Blackpool Hospital. On these samples, expression levels of newly identified proteins that are targets for micro RNAs identified above will be analysed. By validating our research on patient tissue samples, the reliability of our findings and the potential impact on the clinic are greatly enhanced.
This approach will provide information about the identification of novel therapeutic targets and help for personalised treatment of mesothelioma patients by specifically targeting the hypoxic component of their tumours in the future.
RADIO Meso (Receiving a diagnosis of mesothelioma) is a research project, funded by Mesothelioma UK and carried out by researchers at the University of Sheffield. The project aimed at identifying ways to improve the patient and family carer experience of receiving a diagnosis of mesothelioma.
Patients and family carers were asked to recall their experience of receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis and to tell the team ‘what went well?’ and ‘what could have been better?’.
All responses were incredibly valuable and, after collating them, the researchers were able to identify key themes. To summarise some of these, patients and family carers said that they valued: prior warning that it could be bad news, time to ask questions once the news has sunk in and a point of contact during this difficult time.
Alongside this, participants overwhelmingly drew attention to and praised the important role of healthcare professionals, especially clinical nurse specialists.
Challenges that repeatedly arose across patient and family carer stories included the long and winding road to reach a diagnosis and difficulty accessing good quality, reliable information and local support.
The research is now complete and researchers have published the final report and the top ten recommendations:
- Provide consistency and continuity in terms of who the patient sees and what is said.
- Involve the Clinical Nurse Specialist throughout, starting as early as possible in the diagnostic pathway.
- Ensure that staff involved in communicating a diagnosis of mesothelioma have specialist knowledge and training in mesothelioma, as well as communication skills. Training should be ongoing with access to regular updates.
- Be patient-centred when communicating a diagnosis. Take cues from the patient and family in balancing what information to give and when. Use language that is easy to understand. Don’t just rely on written information and booklets.
- Prepare and plan as a team before communicating a diagnosis of mesothelioma. This should include the communication of a plan for ongoing management and treatment to the patient and family carer.
- Provide a quiet and private environment to facilitate communication.
- Ensure the patient feels they have been allocated sufficient time.
- Be direct and honest whilst maintaining hope where possible, for example by providing information about appropriate treatments, symptom management and trials.
- Use available expertise and resources. No single clinician should carry the responsibility of communicating a diagnosis on their own. Best practice is often from partnership working with different services and quality resources.
- Make the patient feel like the most important person in the room, and at the centre of the communication process.
Non-surgical diagnosis study
Mesothelioma UK and Pat Stone Meso Support provided grant funding of £21,795, to Amy Kerr, Senior thoracic surgery research nurse at the Medical Innovation Development Research Unit (MIDRU) at Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham. The grant funds a study into non-invasive diagnosis of mesothelioma using structured light plethysmography (SLP).
SLP is a new diagnosis method which measures chest wall motion which can highlight differences according to the disease which is causing abnormalities on chest X rays or CT scans.
Integrating SLP into future clinical practice to diagnose mesothelioma could improve the diagnostic process for patients with possible mesothelioma and reduce the need for hospital admission for invasive investigations.
It could reduce the length of time patients have to wait for a diagnosis and it offers patients, who are not well enough to have surgery, a more confident diagnosis for their pleural disease which could help provide evidence for compensation claims.
Summary update (June 2018)
We have completed recruitment to meet the required number of 75 patients and all patients have undergone their planned surgical procedure. Patients were positive about contributing towards research and the recruitment rate was very high. There have been no adverse events related to the study. A small number of patients are still to complete follow up but we have submitted the provisional results for presentation at the World Conference on Lung Cancer in Toronto, Canada in September. We look forward to being able to present the full results and submit them for publication to share our findings with clinicians and the public.
Improving follow-up care
Mesothelioma UK has awarded a grant for £25,000 for research into improving follow up care for UK patients with mesothelioma, the asbestos-related cancer.
The recipient of the grant is Dr Catherine Henshall, Senior Nursing Research Fellow at Oxford Brookes University, who will carry out a study to identify best practice for patient follow-up care to help them to lead fulfilling lives and ‘live well’ with their condition.
Mesothelioma UK is committed to supporting research into all aspects of treatment and care related to mesothelioma. The charity works with the National Lung Cancer Forum for Nurses (NLCFN) to make funding available for an NLCFN member or group of members to undertake a small scale research study, a complex audit or a preliminary enquiry to support a larger grant application.
Dr Henshall’s new study will explore mesothelioma patients' experience of follow-up care in three NHS trusts. Five interlinked objectives will aim to gain an understanding of current follow-up care pathways, examine patient experience of follow-up, identify patterns between treatment types received, compare findings across the trusts to identify commonalities and differences, and to propose a revised, patient focused follow-up care services that places patient experience at its heart.
Commenting on the study Dr Henshall said: “We are delighted to have received this funding from Mesothelioma UK and the NLCFN which will enable us to explore mesothelioma patients' experiences of follow up care. This will enable us to make informed recommendations for policy and practice, and to propose preferred, patient focused, follow-up services that are evidence-based, collaborative and inclusive.
“We are committed to working closely and in partnership with Mesothelioma UK throughout this project to ensure that the best outcomes for mesothelioma patients are identified and promoted, and to make a real and lasting difference to mesothelioma patient care and service delivery.”
Liz Darlison, Mesothelioma UK Director of Services said: “Mesothelioma UK is delighted to continue working in partnership with the NLCFN Research Interest Group to provide annual grants that support nurse-led mesothelioma research. We are grateful to the charity’s supporters whose valuable contributions make this possible. Follow up care in Mesothelioma is varied across the UK so this study will provide very useful clinical evidence to influence care and services. We wish Dr Henshall and her research team every success and look forward to helping to evaluate and disseminate findings in due course.”
Professor Angela Tod, who sat on the selection panel for the award, commented: “Members of the NLCFN committee and Research Interest Group reviewed the applications and we are delighted to have selected Catherine Henshall's project on Mesothelioma patients’ experiences of follow-up care across three NHS Trusts. We are confident this study will generate very valuable insights into the patient experience. The fact that it is a multi-site study will add to the rigour and transferability of the findings.”
Living well with mesothelioma
Mesothelioma UK has funded Clinical Nurse Specialist Karen Lord to conduct a national study to generate evidence-based recommendations for 'living well' with mesothelioma, using the views of patients and family carers, and the observations of health professionals. A significant contribution from long term supporters of Mesothelioma UK, Pat Stone Meso Support, helped to make this study possible.
How to 'live well' with long term conditions such as cancer is a priority of UK government. However, little research exists to help us understand what 'living well' means to people with mesothelioma and their families.
Karen's study will involve interviews with patients to identify any common themes around what constitutes living well. Studies involving patients with other long-term conditions have highlighted patients’ need for self-esteem and reliable professional and peer support, retaining personal responsibility and preserving identity. The study will investigate if these findings apply to mesothelioma patients or if there are unique factors that enable them to live well.
The qualitative study will consist of two stages:
- Individual interviews with patients and family carers
- Two focus groups to verify and expand on the findings
The findings will be used to produce a guide to living well with mesothelioma used for patients, carers in the design of patient information.