Research hopes to lead to earlier detection of lung cancer

8 February 2018

Canterbury Christ Church University academics are researching the potential use of microscopic nanoparticles called exosomes to help in the early detection of lung cancer.

The work is taking place at the University’s Life Sciences Industry Liaison Lab at Discovery Park, in Sandwich, Kent.

The Christ Church academics are working in collaboration with University of Liverpool, Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, who have also funded the research, along with their industrial collaborators Austria based Anton Paar and the US science firm HTG Molecular Diagnostics.

Dr Cornelia Wilson, Senior Lecturer in the School of Human and Life Sciences and Academic Laboratory Manager, said: “Lung cancer is still difficult to detect at an early stage, but hopefully our research will help to make progress towards the early detection of this disease.


Dr Cornelia Wilson

“We are working with a device called Litesizer, which has a number of uses including the study of volcanoes, but in using it from a biological perspective, we are able to explore how cells communicate with each other.

“Cells communicate like a biological email system, passing messages from one cell to another. The cancer cells release exosomes containing signals that promote cancer growth, which can travel throughout the body. Cancer exosomes could also cause other cells to become cancerous and promote tumour growth.

“The detection of cancer-derived exosomes in the blood provides a unique opportunity for developing biomarkers. These biomarkers help to identify and detect a tumour before it is clinically visible and for monitoring its progress. We’ve identified four biomarkers, using the nanoparticles, which provide a ‘flag’ to show that cancer is present.”

In this last year Dr Wilson and the team have screened a small cohort of around 120 people with lung cancer. This work was done in collaboration with the University of Liverpool, with funding from the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.

Dr Wilson added: “The signs are encouraging with the four markers indicating cancer at any stage. The next stage is to validate these findings with a larger cohort.

“We have been successful in applying for further funding and together with the University of Liverpool are working towards a clinical trial in using these markers as a diagnostic test. That is the key with lung cancer, it needs to be caught early for treatment to be effective and early detection is still very difficult. Hopefully through our work we will be able to use these markers to identify cancer cells at their earliest point, before tumours begin to grow.”

Canterbury Christ Church University’s Life Sciences Industry Liaison Lab opened in spring 2016, providing the University and its students with first class facilities for science and research with access to Discovery Park’s diverse and dynamic range of pharmaceutical and bio-technology companies.

In addition to the nanoparticle research, the lab has linked with a number of other science companies both on and off site, including Venomtech, looking at the therapeutic potential of venoms and tackling antibiotic resistance; Levicept, developing treatments for chronic pain; and Genea Biomedx, exploring technologies related to optimising IVF treatment for agricultural animals.

Editor’s Notes

Canterbury Christ Church University

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with 17,000 students across Kent and Medway. Its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • Over 94% of our UK undergraduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
  • We are one of the South East’s largest providers of education, training and skills leading to public service careers.

*2015/16 Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey

Discovery Park

  • Discovery Park is among Europe’s leading science and technology parks, based on the outskirts of Sandwich, Kent.
  • The park is an Innovation Cluster where companies and organisations are encouraged to work together and share knowledge.
  • Providing world class facilities, Discovery Park has attracted a host of international companies from the life science, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, science and technology sectors.
  • It benefits from Enterprise Zone status and is home to more than 150 companies employing 3,000 employees.



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Last edited: 14/12/2018 23:49:00