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Cancer of the oesophagus, the pipe connecting the mouth to the stomach, is an aggressive disease. Only up to one fifth of people survive after developing this cancer. Initial treatment involves drugs and radiation to shrink the tumour before a patient gets surgery. However, only one quarter of patients respond. Those patients that do not respond suffer harmful side effects and have a needless wait until surgery. It would be useful if we could select patients that will benefit from the treatment. A type of cell called dendritic cells (DCs) controls if our immune system can kill a tumour. However, the tumour can send signals to DCs preventing them for doing their job and the end result is the tumour stays alive. These events may control if patients will or will not respond to treatment. This study will test if tumours and bloods from patients who respond, versus those that do not, have active or inactive DCs in order to predict which patients will respond to the treatment. Also, tumour cells in the lab will be used to identify the signals they send to the DCs so in future we can target these to improve response to treatment.
The overall aim of this project is find ways of predicting which oesophageal cancer patients are likely to respond to chemoradiation treatment prior to surgery. Currently, certain patients will respond to the therapy while others will not. This project will determine if an immune cell called dendritic cells play a role in this treatment response. The role of dendritic cells is to kill tumours, however oesophageal tumours are capable of sending signals to dendritic cells making them inactive and thereby preventing them from carrying out this function. This project will investigate if this signalling event plays a role in the response of oesophageal cancer patients to chemoradiation treatment.
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