Posted Tuesday 21 November 2023
Kingston University has launched a new collaboration with Science Card, Britain's first e-money current account app dedicated to accelerating science and innovation, to fund research exploring the potential of fig latex to combat cervical cancer.
The study aims to develop a less harmful, lower-risk approach to treating cervical cancer, characterise the bioactive compounds of fig latex and understand its therapeutic applications. It is being led by pathology and cancer biology expert Dr Hossein Ashrafi, an associate professor at Kingston University's School of Life Sciences, Pharmacy and Chemistry, who has also conducted other research on the topic.
His team aims to build on their previous findings, which demonstrated how fig latex, a substance derived from fruit that is still unripe when harvested, could inhibit Human Papillomavirus (HPV)-induced cervical cancer by boosting tumour-suppressing proteins without harming healthy cells as current treatments do.
As well as focusing on improving patients' quality of life, the latest project will explore ways to develop novel, life-saving treatment. The researchers believe this could also have the potential to tackle other forms of cancer which, ultimately, could make a significant impact in both the scientific community and on wider society.
Cervical cancer is primarily caused by HPV, a common group of oncogenic viruses. Mostly diagnosed in women in their early 30s, there are around 3,200 new cases of cervical cancer each year in the UK. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cervical cancer ranks as the fourth leading cause of cancer and cancer death among women. Current treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy harm healthy tissue as they cannot distinguish between cancerous and healthy cells, leading to hair loss, fatigue and severely weakened immunity.
"Cervical cancer is a major global health issue, with about one in 140 females in the UK being diagnosed with cervical cancer in their lifetime. While current treatments can remove lesions, preventing spread and reducing tissue damage remains a major hurdle and finding a safer treatment is absolutely critical," Dr Ashrafi said.
"Fig latex has demonstrated its potential in fighting cervical cancer but how it actually works remains unknown and this is what we now hope to determine through this project. Science Card and its users will help us get closer to our goal of finding a less invasive treatment for cervical cancer that reduces patient suffering."
The study, which will be undertaken with a firm commitment to a non-animal testing approach, is the first to be funded by Science Card, which launches later this year. It allows customers to directly support university research projects focused on building a more sustainable future. Powered by Mastercard, Science Card will commit 10 per cent of profits to research projects and boost research by addressing funding challenges, fostering technological advances and retaining talented scientists in the United Kingdom.
Science Card CEO and founder Daniel Baeriswyl said the new funding model would bridge the worlds of finance and innovation, facilitating a more efficient flow of funds into research that could truly change lives. "During my PhD, it became clear that academic funding constraints were stopping us from making the difference we wanted to with our research and this experience inspired me to create Science Card. I sincerely hope this project will bring us closer to finding a cure for cancer and positively impact lives along the way."