Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.
9 Aug 2016
Dr Jacqui Shields and Dr Angela Riedel at the MRC Cancer Unit explain the science behind these brightly-coloured blobs that show us how cancer cells prepare their road ahead so they can spread around the body.
Breaking down your defences: cancer cells send signals to a healthy lymph node (left) that distort its shape and damage its function (right) making it easier for a tumour to take hold.
One of cancer’s deadliest features is its ability to move through your immune system’s ready-made network of vessels and nodes.
Often, we don’t know a cancer has spread through the immune system until it’s too late, but now we may have found something that could help us predict when that’s going to happen: our findings suggest that before cancer cells even begin to move, they emit signals which send the new area into chaos. [...]
Continue reading: Preparing to move – how cancer can use your immune system as a highway
8 Jun 2016
Professors Irv Weissman and Ravi Majeti at Stanford University and Professor Paresh Vyas at the MRC Molecular Haematology Unit in Oxford, are working on an antibody from the Stanford investigators that enables the immune system to detect and kill cancer cells. They are now testing whether it’s safe and effective for use in people with blood cancer. In this week’s blog they tell us how they collaborated across the Atlantic to get public funding for a project that has led to a spin out with multiple backers and a promising clinical trial.
What if we could make our immune system fight cancer like it fights infection?
These aren’t the only teams in the world grappling with that question but for Professor Irv Weissman and Professor Paresh Vyas, the solution feels tantalisingly close for patients with blood cancer. [...]
Continue reading: Fighting cancer like an infection
27 Feb 2015
Peter Medawar with colleagues at the NIMR
Peter Medawar, Nobel Laureate and Director of the MRC National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in the 1960s, was born 100 years ago on 28 February. Here Frank Norman, Head of Library Services at the NIMR, looks back on how his research into skin grafts led to modern organ transplants, and his significant role in encouraging and supporting young scientists.
It was in 1940 that transplantation sparked the interest of the young Peter Medawar. While working as a researcher at the University of Oxford, an RAF plane crashed near to his home and one of the airmen suffered severe burns.
Through his experience of trying to help the airman, Medawar became interested in treating burn victims with skin grafts – a risky and often unsuccessful intervention. He prepared a review of the literature, Notes on the problem of skin homografts, which he sent to the War Wounds Committee of the MRC. [...]
Continue reading: A look back at Peter Medawar
19 Oct 2012
James Fuller discusses his research into developing antibodies against Alzheimer’s disease in the third and final highly commended article for the Max Perutz Science Writing Award 2012.
Imagine living with the knowledge that over the next decade your brain will be slowly destroyed by your own body. As neurons are snuffed out like candles, what will you lose next? Will it be precious memories? The ability to perform an everyday task? Perhaps a facet of your personality? Your family and friends will have to watch helpless as the person they love is slowly eroded away.
Imagine now finding out that with all of our medical expertise there is nothing we can do. Not one treatment that can slow the course of this deterioration. This is a reality for someone diagnosed with dementia. [...]
Continue reading: Fighting Alzheimer’s disease? Get the immune system on board