How a robot has become indispensable in the search for a new viral/drug combination for head and neck cancer
Dr Joan Kyula and Dr Victoria Roulstone
Researchers are used to complexity,it’s what they’re trained to do, but two scientists, who were carrying out a large scale project for Oracle, were grateful for the assistance of a robot when faced with carrying out a high throughput pharmacological test on a range of 80 different drugs, in combination with a cancer-killing virus. Researchers Victoria Roulstone and Joan Kyula are utilising the skills of a sophisticated Hamilton Microlab robot in this project which is looking for novel drug combinations that could enhance the tumor killing properties of Reovirus.
The Hamilton robot helps with the practical implementation of a complex test of this kind that is testing all the possible permutations of the 80 drugs with Reovirus. The robot was used specifically for the purpose of making the study quicker and easier and it is also able to remove human error, an almost inevitable result from a project of this complexity. The ICR has used the Hamilton robot on similar experiments where large quantities of drugs in numerous combinations need to be analysed and it is now fully optimised and programmed to be at the ‘top of its game’ in terms of accuracy.
Dr Joan Kyula explains:
“Reovirus has been shown to be sensitive in melanoma and some drugs from these experiments were shown to enhance the viral effect. We are currently looking to see how head and neck cancer cells can be sensitised further to the virus when we combine it with cancer drugs. By using the virus in combination with these proven cancer drugs, we are assessing which specific drug/virus combination will enhance cancer killing efficiently.”
This six-month project is testing the drug/virus combinations in the laboratory, clinical studies will follow and in later studies it is hoped to explore the mechanism by which the virus kills the cancer in this combination context.
Pictured: (left to right) Dr Victoria Roulstone and Dr Joan Kyula at the Institute of Cancer Research