Oracle’s impact: our research success stories

Oracle’s mission is to invest in research that will have the greatest impact on head and neck cancer patients

Oracle has a history of funding successful research. Over the last five years, the charity has spent more than £1.5m on world-class research programmes. Below are just some examples of how Oracle’s work is leading to better outcomes for patients.

These breakthroughs simply would not have been possible without the generosity of our donors and fundraisers. Learn more about how you can support our work.

Tackling radiotherapy resistance

Oracle Scientist: Dr Hind Hafsi
Funded by Oracle: 2014-2016
Research Centre: ICR

Tumour resistance to radiotherapy and chemotherapies is a growing problem in cancer research.

Thanks to research carried out by Dr Hafsi and funded by Oracle, drugs enhancing a head and neck tumour’s sensitivity to radiotherapy treatment developed in the lab are now being prescribed to patients.

Reducing the side-effects of radiotherapy treatment

Oracle Scientist: Professor Chris Nutting
Funded by Oracle: 2004
Research Centre: Royal Marsden Hospital

Dry mouth is the commonest side-effect of radiotherapy treatment reported by head and neck cancer patients.  In 2004, Oracle funded a clinical research fellow to work under the supervision of Professor Chris Nutting, now one of the charity’s Honorary Trustees.

The research fellow was tasked with designing a treatment protocol to test the effect of reducing the dose of radiotherapy delivered to the salivary glands during head and neck cancer treatment.

It was hoped that by doing this, fewer patients would develop the side-effect of permanent dry mouth caused by damage to the salivary glands.

This work, the first of its kind internationally, laid the foundations for a UK-wide clinical trial.  The results were stunning.  By adapting treatment, only 25% of patients reported they were suffering with dry mouth following treatment compared to 90% prior to adapting the therapy.

Predicting a patient’s response to treatment

Oracle Scientist: Dr Shreerang Bhide
Funded by Oracle: 2012-2015
Research Centre: Royal Marsden Hospital

Thanks to work undertaken Dr Bhide and funded by Oracle, biopsy and blood tests now exist to assess how well a head and neck cancer patient is responding to their cancer treatment.

These tests, the first of their kind in the world, are allowing doctors to modify treatments on a patient-by-patient basis. Those responding well may have their courses of harsh chemotherapies cut shorter and those not responding well can see new treatment options explored.

Oracle’s Carotid Artery Work: A stroke of genius

Oracle Scientist: Dorothy Gujral
Funded by Oracle: 2011
Research Centre: Royal Marsden Hospital

As a result of research funded by Oracle, it is now understood how we can better adapt radiotherapy treatments to the neck to minimise damage to surrounding blood vessels including the carotid artery. As a result, fewer patients are now at risk of stroke from their cancer treatment.

Kinder treatments for patients

Oracle Scientist: Dr Shreerang Bhide
Funded by Oracle: 2012-2015
Research Centre: Royal Marsden Hospital

Typically, cancer tumours are associated with low levels of oxygen. Lower levels of oxygen are also associated with poor response to cancer treatments. Historically, cancer patients would, therefore, undergo painful transfusions to inject their blood with more oxygen to help improve their response to treatments.

Oracle research has shown for the first time that this practice does not clinical benefits, meaning that fewer patients will now have to undergo painful transfusions as part of the course of treatment.

Using viruses to treat cancers

Oracle Scientists: Vicky Roulstone and Joan Kyula
Funded by Oracle: 2015-
Research Centre: ICR

We know that viruses can cause cancers but we now know that viruses can also contribute to curing cancers.

With the support of Oracle, Professor Harrington and his team have been able to show that combining a type of virus known as a reovirus with combinations of drugs can make those drugs far more effective at killing cancer cells.  This work has been resulted in two new treatment approaches to head and neck cancer which it is hoped will soon move into clinical trials.

This research was made possible through the support of the Mark Donegan Fellowship.