Research is key to finding better ways of diagnosing and treating conditions, improving the technology and equipment used. Our current research projects include finding ways to improve transplantation, using immunotherapy for cancer treatment and understanding and treating conditions such as diabetes, amyloidosis, pancreatic cancer and haemophilia.
Amyloidosis is a rare disease caused by the build-up of one or other of the body’s own proteins in the form of insoluble abnormal fibres, called amyloid fibrils. The amyloid deposits progressively damage the structure and function of the affected parts of the body and can lead to life-threatening organ failure.
The UK NHS National Amyloidosis Centre at the Royal Free is the only centre in the UK specialising in amyloidosis and one of the world’s leading centres for amyloid research.
You can support this research by making a donation or through fundraising – set up your fundraising page to support Amyloidosis Research here.
Read more about Amyloidosis Research
The PEM (Positron Emission Mammography) machine, purchased thanks to a generous donor makes earlier detection of breast cancer easier. The PEM is particularly useful in younger patients with dense breasts, when it is often harder to detect cancer using a mammogram. The PEM is also more comfortable for patients as there is no breast compression involved; the patient just has to lie face down.
It is a useful diagnostic tool. Patients who are screened using the PEM are also helping with high quality clinical research and the data and results are analysed which help improve diagnosis and treatment for future patients.
Early lung cancer diagnosis
The pioneering ‘ambulatory lung biopsy service’ at Barnet Hospital, Royal Free Hospital NHS Trust is led by Dr Sam Hare, Consultant Chest Radiologist. This innovative biopsy method, hailed as a ‘gamechanger’ for lung cancer, won the inaugural NHS Innovation Challenge Prize for Cancer Care in 2016 In particular, this award highlighted unparalleled early lung cancer diagnosis & improved patient experience. The service, publicised in the Times and BBC news, has empowered patients and allowed access to newer lung cancer therapies, even in more complex patients who are often declined lung biopsy at other institutions.
The aim of the new lung cancer FALCON fund is to allow all NHS patients access to earlier lung cancer diagnosis. Truly, the Fight Against Lung Cancer is On (FALCON). Read more about lung diagnosis.
The team will be offereing training courses to share their best parctices and techniques which will be shown on the events page.
Haemophilia refers to a group of hereditary blood disorders that prevent the body from properly controlling blood clotting or coagulation. Patients with these blood disorders can experience a wide range of haemophilia symptoms, such as vitamin deficiencies and prolonged bleeding. Through research treatment the survival rate of patients has transformed from 10yrs to a normal life expectancy.
The Katharine Dormandy haemophilia and thrombosis centre is celebrating 50 years of improving treatments through research and is currently raising funds for a £500,000 research project that will transform the lives of the next generation of haemophilia patients.
Research into HIV is creating breakthrough treatments which have transformed the lives of HIV diagnosed patients over recent years. Through the Ian Charleson Day Centre (ICDC) patients receive support and testing and advanced research translates into advanced diagnosis and care.
2020 will be celebrating 30 years of the Ian Charleson Day Centre (ICDC) at the Royal Free. As part of this celebration ICDC will be holding events and celebrations and encouraging others to do so. The aim of the 30th Anniversary celebration is to raise £30,000 to support patients as they age with HIV to prevent isolation, loneliness and frailty.
Myeloma is a cancer that affects cells in the bone marrow called plasma cells. As the cancerous plasma cells fill the bone marrow, the body is not able to make enough normal blood cells. This can lead to anaemia, bleeding problems and infections.
Through the support of the Royal Free Charity, Dr Andrea Knight is working in collaboration with a team from the Czech Myeloma Group in Brno, analysing bone marrow samples from patients at different stages of Multiple Myeloma. This is ground-breaking research into this disease, which remains incurable, and it is hoped that the study will lead to a novel tumour immunotherapy.
The myeloma practice at the Royal Free Hospital sees approximately 30 newly diagnosed patients each year and follows over 100 patients through treatment at any one time.
To help us fund similar research projects please donate.
Organ & Tissue Replacement
Conventional transplantation cannot meet the demand for replacing failing organs, a growing problem with the increasing age of the population. The lack of an ideal scaffold is what limits the clinical success being translated into routine treatments for thousands of patients with severe disorders of the ear, nose, throat and face. Achieving this goal would improve the length and quality of life for many patients.
Current work in a new generation of scaffolds for tissue engineering using biological-polymer composites is centered on using nanocomposite materials. Working with nanoparticles requires a state-of-the-art electron microscope (ESEM) which the team was able to purchase with a grant from the Royal Free Charity. This microscope is essential for research and the development of organs within a clinical setting using materials and biological cells and/or tissue. For the development of organs, the team use scaffolds and stem cells in bioreactors and the ESEM is the only method of seeing how the stem cells are incorporated into the scaffold material.
To help us fund similar research project please donate.
The Rapid Diagnostic Pathway Project (Started November 2014)
A three year multicentre project into early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. This UCL project is led by Dr Steve Pereira and sponsored by charitable funds, including Pancreatic Cancer UK, Gemma Fund, Nicki’s Smile as well our charity fund Fiorina. Its aims are to identify patients with early pancreatic cancer by testing symptomatic “high risk” patients with a panel of blood biomarkers. Validation of a diagnostic biomarkers panel combined with “symptoms tool” for early detection of pancreatic cancer could potentially save hundreds of lives in the UK every year.
Research findings so far into identifying early biomarkers for pancreatic cancer are promising. The project has also found that some early symptoms which patients have reported are often not recognised as possible pancreatic cancer in its early stages. The study aims to adopt these promising biomarkers for pancreatic cancer into routine clinical practice as well as alternative diagnostic strategies.
Our aim is to reduce the delay between the appearance of symptoms and a confirmed diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. This project brings together subject experts from London and Liverpool to join the dots between symptoms, early markers of the disease and access to treatment. We should be able to identify and treat patients quickly and more efficiently to give them the best chance against pancreatic cancer.
Our findings will also provide primary care physicians (such as GP’s) with a Rapid Diagnostic Pathway for patients with pancreatic cancer.
Update on scleroderma research April 2019
– with grateful thanks to the Milan family for their fundraising
Systemic sclerosis remains an enormous challenge and the wonderful commitment and generosity of the Milan family, their friends and supporters, has really made a difference. We have already been able to work on important new projects but the additional funds that have been raised will now enable substantially more than was expected and our work will continue. The funds raised by the Milan family and friends have directly helped three specific projects.
First, our efforts to identify better ways of identifying earlier the patients with scleroderma most at risk of severe internal organ complications so they can be treated earlier. Second, to understand how cases can be selected better for stem cell transplant and to learn from and contribute to emerging research from other international centres about mechanisms by which stem cell transplant works. Third, we have been able to start new projects linked to understanding how chemicals released by damaged cells might activate fibroblasts and could be targets for future therapy.
Earlier identification of patients at risk of severe complications:
We have been able to use support to underpin some of the critical work on trying to identify better cases at risk of major complications at a stage when we can initiate treatment. We have been able to link antibodies and skin to identify new subsets and potentially improve clinical trial design. This has included integrating skin and blood tests that we routinely obtain to have new ways of finding cases at high or low risk of lung and heart disease. Ultimately, this may allow earlier identification of cases requiring emerging treatments and allow prevention approaches rather than just waiting for major complications to develop and then offering treatment.
Better understanding of stem cell transplantation in scleroderma:
We have been able to carefully review our growing experience of stem cell transplant to understand how the cases that improve may have been modified. We have been able to allocate a clinical fellow to work part time on this so that we can share our experience with the broader rheumatology community. This includes a presentation of two cases at the forthcoming British Society for Rheumatology Conference in Birmingham.
In the future we plan to use links with the UCL Institute of Immunity to better understand the immune cell changes occurring after therapies for SSc, including stem cell transplant. We have established a potential future collaboration with Canadian scleroderma exerts to hopefully study up to 50 cases in the future because international collaboration is essential.
Linking cell damage to fibrosis – new concepts about the cause of scleroderma:
The donated funds have helped cover the relatively modest costs of small pilot studies looking at the possible factors underpinning the link between fibroblast activation and tissue damage that we think may underlie progression of fibrosis in the skin and lungs. We have been able to undertake some new work that hopefully will allow us to secure a larger research grant to support laboratory studies.
Together, this is allowing us to really understand how to implement the progress in SSc as ongoing trials are completed and we expect that more will be possible over coming months.
Professor Christopher Denton, Royal Free Hospital and UCL Division of Medicine
Neuroendocrine Tumour Research
Neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) are rare. They develop from cells of the neuroendocrine system, which are found in organs including the stomach, bowel and lungs. NETs are more common in people aged over 60. Some NETs may be called carcinoid tumours.
Symptoms depend on where in the body the NET is, but can include:
- tummy pain
- changes in bowel habits
- shortness of breath
- loss of appetite
- weight loss.
NET Unit at the Royal Free Hospital
The neuroendocrine tumour (NET) unit at the Royal Free Hospital has an international reputation for the management of neuroendocrine tumour patients. In 2010 it was the first UK centre to be awarded European Centre of Excellence. It currently receives 12-20 new referrals per month (144-240 per year) and has an active patient cohort of over 1,500 patients. It receives referrals from across the UK as well as from abroad. It is the designated centre for NETs within the North London Cancer Network.
The aim of the Royal Free Hospital neuroendocrine tumour group is to provide optimal management for patients with neuroendocrine tumours, taking into account how the tumour affects each individual. We work within a multidisciplinary team and aim to enhance the prospects for treatment by a combination of clinical and laboratory research.
Read more about the current Research and options.
You can donate to the neuroendocrine tumour (NET) unit here.