The FINANCIAL — The University of Liverpool’s Institute of Translational Medicine will be a partner in a new European Consortium to foster research on eye cancer and identify new treatments for this serious disease.
Under the coordination of Institut Curie in Paris, the Consortium, entitled ‘UM Cure 2020’, involving 12 partners has received more than £5 million of funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme to identify new therapeutic approaches to treat metastatic eye cancer (uveal melanoma) in a five year project.
Although rare, uveal melanoma (UM) is the most common primary eye cancer in adults. While the primary tumour can often be treated very effectively, up to 50 % of patients develop metastases most often in the liver, for whom no effective therapy is available. Metastatic UM patients require tailored therapies for their disease, to improve their survival chances, according to the University of Liverpool.
The UM Cure 2020 Consortium has gathered around a project targeted at identifying and validating at the preclinical level novel therapeutic approaches for the treatment of UM metastases.
Dr Sergio Roman-Roman, Head of Translational Research department at Institut Curie and Coordinator of UM Cure 2020, said: “Our ambition is to significantly increase the survival of metastatic UM patients, a parameter that has remained unchanged in the last decades.
“Although we are aware this is an enormous challenge, we believe that we can improve the outcome of UM patients through the identification of new therapies and the initiation of UM-dedicated clinical trials.”
The objective is to achieve the initiation of clinical trials from 2018.
Professor Coupland leads the University’s Liverpool Ocular Oncology Research Group (LOORG) and is Director of the North West Cancer Research Centre – University of Liverpool.
Of the consortium Professor Coupland said: “To achieve its goal the consortium proposes an innovative concept placing the patient central in the therapy development process. While the pharmaceutical industry mainly focuses on developing drugs that may work in as many tumour types as possible, this approach only rarely results in drugs that work in rare tumours such as UM.
“The centre of the UM Cure 2020 approach is to characterise tumour tissue from UM patients with metastases, in order to define actionable targets. Underpinning this will be the UM Cure 2020 virtual biobank registry, linking biobanks in four referral centres involved into a harmonised network.”
The Liverpool Ocular Oncology Centre at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital (clinical lead, Heinrich Heimann) is a referral centre for expert eye cancer treatment in England, and works closely with LOORG in biosample collection and research.
The other three UMCure 2020 centres collecting biosamples are in Paris (Institut Curie), Leiden (Leiden University Medical Centre) and Krakow (Jagiellonian University). The centres will prospectively collect primary and metastatic UM samples, in order to gather a sufficient number for their thorough characterisation. Single drugs and/or combinations showing promising preclinical data will then be tested in clinical trials.
Professor Coupland adds: “My colleagues and I are looking forward to playing such a significant role in the UM Cure 2020 consortium. The co-ordinated approach will help us to maximise our resources to provide much needed research of this very serious disease.”