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PhD student to present pioneering cancer research in Parliament

Pioneering research that aims to reduce the amount of radiotherapy for cancer patients will be presented in Parliament by a University of Hull PhD student.

Jordon Sandland, who is in the second year of his PhD in bioorganic chemistry, will be in Westminster to present his research – which aims to improve cancer care, diagnosis and treatment for patients – to a range of politicians and a panel of expert judges after being shortlisted from hundreds of applicants as part of a national competition, STEM for BRITAIN 2018.

Jordon’s presentation, which will focus on his research into drugs that utilise therapeutic and imaging capacities for the combined imaging and treatment of cancers, will be judged against dozens of other scientists’ research in the only national competition of its kind.

Ross Boyle, a professor in biological chemistry at the University of Hull, leads a team of seven researchers at the forefront of research to combat cancer.

He said:

“Jordon is a remarkable student. His contribution to our pioneering work in advancing cancer diagnosis and treatment through cancer imaging and radiotherapy is highly significant. By presenting his research in Parliament, Jordon will achieve recognition for his work and raise awareness of the importance of government funding for this kind of science research which offers real benefits to patients.” 

Jordon, who achieved a first-class MChem Chemistry degree at the University of Hull in 2016 and was awarded the Sir Brynmor Jones Prize in Experimental Chemistry 2016 for excellence in his fourth year research project, said:

 “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for a young career scientist. I’m proud to represent the University of Hull and to showcase the ground breaking research into cancer therapy and imaging that takes place here.

Jordon Sandland, Bioorganic Chemistry PhD student, University of Hull

“I chose to study my PhD at Hull because of the chemistry facilities at the University and the PET (Positron Emission Tomography) research centre – which uses medical imaging technology for research and early diagnosis and is one of the only of its kind in the UK. Although the University is already well known for its research into LCD technology (which is responsible for the liquid crystal displays on our mobile phones), the University is also pushing the frontiers of cancer therapy and imaging to help improve diagnosis and treatment for patients.”

The University’s recent £1.8-million investment in the ground-breaking Molecular Imaging Research Centre at Castle Hill Hospital in partnership with Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals and the Daisy Appeal underlies the University’s commitment to improving the healthcare of people in this region and beyond. The centre will be used to translate scientific and medical research advances into clinical use by providing the diagnostic tools to help doctors identify the early signs of cancer.

“Our hope is that the radiopharmaceuticals that we develop ‘on the bench’ in the lab can be investigated in the PET (positron emission tomography) centre at the University and then ultimately bring benefits to patients in the new research centre.”

Approximately 50 per cent of all cancer patients undergo radiotherapy as part of their treatment. For some patients, the outcome of the radiotherapy is poor. Any small increase in effectiveness of the treatment would mean a greater therapeutic outcome for the patient.

Jordon’s research is based on a drug that is currently in clinical trials in the NHS. His PhD project focuses on designing and synthesising drugs, which enter tumours, and reduce the amount of radiotherapy required in order to destroy the tumour. The drugs are non-toxic, and only activate in the tumours when acted upon by ionising radiation such as x-rays.

Jordon has also been studying how to combine these drugs with radioactive metals which allow Positron Emission Tomography (PET), an imaging technique that enables clinicians to diagnose the tumour, to be performed.

By combining therapy and imaging into a single ‘theranostic’ drug it advances the move towards personalised treatment of cancers.

Jordon said:

“Personalised medicine is based on the idea that not all cancer patients are the same, their bodies react differently to different treatments. So the final stage of my project is to create a molecule that you can administer to a patient and which can be used to image the tumour and find out how long it takes for the drug to reach the tumour. This will allow radiotherapy to be given in the most effective way.”

Stephen Metcalfe MP, Chairman of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, said:

“These early career engineers, mathematicians and scientists are the architects of our future and STEM for BRITAIN is politicians’ best opportunity to meet them and understand their work.”

The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee runs STEM for BRITAIN in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of Biology, The Physiological Society and the Council for the Mathematical Sciences, with financial support from the Clay Mathematics Institute, Research Councils UK, Warwick Manufacturing Group, Society of Chemical Industry, Institute of Biomedical Science and the Heilbronn Institute for Mathematical Research and the Nutrition Society.

The competition is judged by leading academics and winners will receive a gold, silver or bronze medal along with a significant award in cash. 

Jordon said:

“I’m unbelievably grateful to my supervisors Professor Ross Boyle, Professor Steve Archibald and also Huguette Savoie for encouraging me throughout my PhD and allowing me to pursue this research.”

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