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Working towards a cure for kidney cancer

16 April 2019

With a grant of £99,707 from us, Dr John Bradley has made a breakthrough that could one day lead to a new treatment for kidney cancer. We are funding the next stage of his vital research in partnership with Garfield Weston.

Within the next hour, someone in the UK will get the devastating news that they have kidney cancer. Every year, 8,000 new cases of kidney cancer are diagnosed.

Sometimes those patients suspected something was wrong: they may have had blood in their urine, or pain in their stomach, or a lump. For many people, though, there are no warnings at all.

Unlike other cancers, kidney cancer is often resistant to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. This makes it difficult to treat.

Dr John Bradley
Dr John Bradley

Hope for patients with kidney cancer

Dr John Bradley and his team at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge have been looking for a new treatment for kidney cancer, and they’ve made a remarkable discovery.

The team has been studying a special protein called TNF, which is found in your blood. They have discovered that TNF binds itself to cells and sends them signals telling them to do one of two different things. TNF can tell cells to die, or to divide and grow.

Dr Bradley believes that by controlling the signals the TNF sends, you could effectively command kidney cells to grow or die. The implications are huge.

Telling cancer to stop

Cancer occurs when cells in the body begin to grow uncontrollably. Dr Bradley’s research may one day make it possible to use TNF to instruct cells in a kidney tumour to die. This would stop the growth of the cancerous tumour and be a future cure for kidney damage.

There is a second, equally vital, application of Dr Bradley’s discovery. By telling kidney cells to grow, it may be possible to repair damaged kidneys. Kidney scarring is the number one cause of kidney failure.

"This breakthrough could save and prolong the lives of thousands of patients every year." Dr John Bradley

Next steps

Dr Bradley’s discovery is the first step in a long journey. But in a few years time, when patients get a diagnosis of kidney cancer, it may not be the devastating blow it is today.

Reviewed April 2019

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