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Kingston University and Kingston Hospital trust join forces to explore relationship between HPV and upper gastrointestinal cancers

Posted Tuesday 16 June 2020

Kingston University and Kingston Hospital trust join forces to explore relationship between HPV and upper gastrointestinal cancers

Kingston University researchers will investigate the role human papillomavirus (HPV) plays in the development of gastrointestinal cancers through a new project with Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

The new PhD studentship will explore the relationship between HPV - one of a group of viruses affecting the body's moist membranes - and the formation of oesophageal and gastric tumours, which are major health problems worldwide. It is hoped that this research will provide insight into the causes and potential treatment of these increasingly common cancers through early screening and vaccination

Muhamad O Shafiq, known as Osama, has been appointed to the three year studentship, which is funded by Kingston Hospital Charity and the Laurie Todd Foundation, established by local resident Maundy Todd in memory of her late husband, who was diagnosed with advanced oesophageal cancer last year.

Dr Hossein Ashrafi, Associate Professor in Pathology and Cancer Biology within the University's Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing, said the project demonstrated the importance of the relationship the University has developed with its local hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

"Establishing a relationship between upper gastrointestinal cancer development and high risk HPV subtypes would provide invaluable insight into the role this virus plays in the formation of oesophageal and gastric tumours," he said. "This could, in turn, lead to the broadening of early HPV screening and the development of vaccines that could help prevent and treat some forms of gastrointestinal cancer. This project will bring mutual benefit to both institutions and allow us to further strengthen our research links, ultimately benefitting patient care."

In December last year, Kingston Hospital was recognised in the Lancet editorial for its efforts to promote research and for making more clinical trials available to its patients. One of the key strategic steps noted in the article was the close partnership with Kingston University and the Royal Marsden Hospital, which was providing access for local patients to cutting edge innovation and research, Dr Helen Matthews, Research Director and Consultant Gastroenterologist at Kingston Hospital, said.

"I am very excited to start our joint project with Dr Ashrafi at Kingston University investigating the role of humanpapillomavirus in the development of oesophageal cancer," she said. "As a team, we hope that this will lead to future insights into the causes and treatment of this increasingly common and difficult to treat cancer. In addition, we can build on this project to create more collaborations between our local academic centre, Kingston University, and our clinical team at the hospital to answer questions that are of real importance to our local population and community. We are hugely grateful to the Laurie Todd Foundation, without whose support we would be unable to pursue this really important work."

Maundy Todd, founder of the Laurie Todd Foundation, said: "I am so pleased that, despite the current incredibly difficult conditions, Kingston Hospital and Kingston University have started work on this research. I hope it will contribute to earlier diagnosis for oesophageal cancer. My husband, Laurie, died six weeks after diagnosis, despite Kingston's and The Royal Marsden's heroic efforts."

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