Dr Maria Alcolea
Guts UK has joined forces with Worldwide Cancer Research to award Dr Maria Alcolea’s team at the University of Cambridge £248,286 for their promising oesophageal cancer research.
Why does Guts UK fund oesophageal cancer research?
Oesophageal cancer has been neglected and misunderstood for decades, despite being the 8th most common cancer worldwide. Where many cancers have seen vast improvement rates in survivability, sadly oesophageal cancer survival rates have remained low. Just 15% of those diagnosed with oesophageal cancer will survive for five years or more. We exist to change that.
What do scientists know already?
For a while now scientists have understood that cancer cells grow because of mutations accumulating in our DNA. Dr Alcolea’s team at the University of Cambridge had an exciting new idea that it might not be the mutations themselves causing cancer, but actually the interactions between the mutations.
What will the project involve?
The team at Cambridge will use a multidisciplinary approach (including the use of new 3D cell culture models) to investigate how different mutations form an environment that supports tumour development. They hope to shed light on new ways to prevent and treat oesophageal cancer, by understanding what happens at a cellular level in the early stages of cancer growth.
How might this change the future of oesophageal cancer?
“I see myself as a passionate scientist; understanding early cancer formation is my life’s mission. I honestly believe that to understand cancer, we first need to understand how it originally forms. It is imperative that we understand what makes some mutant cells develop into cancer or not. If we do not have this information, we may be missing critical targets to prevent cancer or slow it down” – Dr Maria Alcolea.
The more we understand about the interactions between mutating cells, the closer we come to finding a prevention, effective treatment and ultimately, a cure for oesophageal cancer.
“Ben was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in 2017, just four days before Christmas. He died just three years later in January 2021, when our son Thomas was 11 years old.
Oesophageal cancer can be such an aggressive cancer with bad odds, yet it receives little research funding unlike other cancers which actually have good survival rates. I’m in touch with other families who have been through or are going through what we did with Ben. This research could help them and others. It makes me feel more positive that with more research like this, the survival rate may increase. We hope less and less families have to go through all that Ben and those around him did, with few treatment options available to them” – Natalie, Ben’s wife.
Your donations take us one step closer to a future where there is an effective treatment, a cure for oesophageal cancer. Please donate today to enable us to continue funding life-saving research. Thank you.
Collaboration is key
Worldwide Cancer Research focus on pioneering discovery research, aiming to discover entirely new knowledge about cancer. Co-funding research projects with charities like Worldwide Cancer Research means that we can support even more cutting-edge research projects like Dr Alcolea’s, making your donations go even further.
Your support makes it possible. Please donate today. Thank you.
> Timings & Scientific Titles
Dr Maria Alcolea • University of Cambridge • Awarded £124,143 from Guts UK and £124,143 from Worldwide Cancer Research.
Timings: 1st March 2023 – 28th Feb 2025.
Title: Understanding the role of mutation interactions in oesophageal cancer