Oracle and The Institute of Cancer Research

As Henry Ford so rightly put it “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.”

Over the years Oracle has forged an effective working partnership with The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) which has resulted in a number of highly successful research projects. Ultimately this means better treatment and more positive outcomes for head and neck cancer patients.

We talked to Thomas Bland, the ICR’s Deputy Director of Development about the Oracle/ICR relationship:

“Without Oracle’s support the ICR would not be able to fund the proof-of-principle research which is so vital for the discovery of new treatments for head and neck cancer.   Oracle’s funding helps fill the gap that exists between a scientist or a head and neck cancer specialist seeing the need for a particular area of research and the point at which larger research funding bodies or pharma companies can get involved. Usually these organisation’s funds are, by necessity, focussed on larger scale clinical trials but in order to reach this point the early stage research has to be completed – this is the fundamental work that Oracle funds.

“The ICR’s strategy is to embark on innovative research projects, from discovering new drugs and combination therapies, to uncovering new insights into the causes of cancer and how it becomes resistant to treatment, and novel ways to image tumours. This is where Oracle plays such an important role. With its particular focus and expertise on head and neck cancer it means that research projects for this cancer type are able to move forward when they might otherwise not get sufficient attention.”

Thomas Bland told us that the partnership comes to the fore where research that is applicable to many different cancers receives funding from Oracle for a specific head and neck focus.

An excellent example of this is a gene therapy project that has been running for several years at the ICR. This is a promising new therapy that uses a modified virus to render cancers more sensitive to treatment. In a project part-funded by Oracle, Professor Caroline Springer and her team at the ICR have used an enzyme that lies dormant in the cancer cells until a non-toxic prodrug is administered that is activated only in cancer cells. The therapy offers a more targeted means of delivering treatment to the tumour – leaving healthy cells unaffected and is the first demonstration that the enzyme has a significant beneficial effect in head and neck cancer.

Tom Bland sums it up: “This exciting project is applicable to a number of cancer types but without the Oracle funding, this research would not necessarily be moving into clinical trials for the benefit of head and neck cancer patients.

We very much hope that the Oracle/ICR relationship means that we can look ahead to many more years of productive collaboration. For our research to be successful we have to take risks so it is vital that our interests are aligned with other entrepreneurial organisations such as the Oracle Cancer Trust”