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MRN update September 2018

The latest news from the mesothelioma research network

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Our first MRN Research Day

The MRN Research Day was held at the Wellcome Collection in London. Delegates comprised basic and translational researchers, clinical researchers, health care professionals and those in research support roles. Dr John Moore-Gillon, Vice President of Asthma + Lung UK and the MRN Steering Group Chair opened and closed the day.

Delegate feedback from the MRN Research Day 2018 was really positive. Of those who filled in an evaluation, 85% felt the programme was excellent or good; half felt they’d made contacts that could form new research collaborations and 86% felt that the event would have an impact on their research work or clinical practice going forward.

Thank you to all of you that gave up your day to attend the meeting. Asthma + Lung UK is hugely appreciative of the organising committee’s work and grateful to all the speakers for attending and sharing their extensive knowledge.

I wrote an accessible blog which can be shared with patients and carers, summarising the research presented. Please do share it. 

Read my MRN Research Day blog

Mesothelioma fellowship opportunities

Papworth Hospital and Asthma + Lung UK are providing two great fellowship opportunities to train the next generation of research leaders in mesothelioma. Find out more via the job adverts.

What’s our plan for year 2 of the MRN?

Look out for a survey that all members of 4 months or more will get sent in October, to ask you about what more we can do for you. Please do take a few minutes to take part.

We want to be able to engage more with our MRN members in our second year. And we hope we can use digital strategies, such as webinars to enable you to connect with and learn from other members as much as possible.

During the second year, we also plan to:

  • expand membership and include more international researchers
  • encourage research collaboration with workshops and events
  • encourage multi-centre bidding for programme grants.

Asthma + Lung UK will continue to develop relationships with industry partners and other donors with a view to securing more funds for mesothelioma research and research infrastructure.

New sites sought for MesobanK

Established in 2012, MesobanK is the UK’s largest unique collection of high-quality tissue, cells and blood samples from mesothelioma patients. MesobanK collaborates with hospitals around the UK to identify patients with mesothelioma and collect samples. The team are keen to hear from potential new sites, particularly in the North East of England.

To be a collection centre for MesobanK your centre must:

  • Carry out surgical resection of mesothelioma
  • See at least 30 new cases of mesothelioma a year
  • Host a clinical team with experience and interest in asbestos-related diseases
  • Have experience in taking consent and collecting samples for research purposes
  • Hold an HTA licence

If you are interested in becoming a site contact Sallyanne Meakins, MesobanK Operational Manager,

Using AI to help identify, assess and measure mesothelioma

Canon Medical Research Europe is working with mesothelioma specialist Dr Kevin Blyth, of NHS Glasgow & Clyde, to develop a new tool capable of detecting, assessing and measuring tumours to aid treatment of mesothelioma.

Find out more 

MRN member profiles

MRN Profiles

Dr Ed Hollox, Reader in Genetics and Postgraduate Research Tutor

Department of Genetics and Genome Biology, University of Leicester

We know that cancer is an evolving system which acquires losses and gains of genes throughout the life of a tumour, and mesothelioma is no exception. Together with colleagues at Leicester, I run the MEDUSA project, which aims to characterise the evolution of mesothelioma tumour genomes within a patient to identify genetic weaknesses that can be targeted by drugs.

We are particularly focusing on genomic changes that happen early in tumour evolution, as they are likely to be present across the whole tumour rather than a part of it, and therefore drugs targeted against these changes will act against the whole tumour, not just a part of it.

My interest in genetics stems from an interest in trying to understand how living things work, and the role of genetics in all areas of biology and medicine allows geneticists to attack the puzzle of disease in a very fundamental way. I have been working to understand how genomes lose and gain genes for over 15 years, and have seen the field develop enormously, driven by new ideas and by new technology, such as high-throughput DNA sequencing. This new technology means that we can now begin to understand the puzzle of how gene loss and gain works in mesothelioma, particularly in the context of exposure to asbestos, which will, I hope, lead to new treatment approaches.

Such aspirations are, of course, nothing without the community of clinicians and patients helping us to move our knowledge forward, and here in Leicester, we are lucky in having such support for the science and the ability to translate findings for practical benefits.

Find out more by contacting Ed via email at

Dr Mariana Delfino-Machín

Molecular and Cellular Medicine Board, Medical Research Council

Mariana is the Programme Manager for cancer at the Medical Research Council (MRC), and represents the MRC within the MRN. The MRC is a non-departmental public body, funded through the government’s research budget. All UK research councils, including the MRC, have come together in 2018 to become a new organisation, UK Research and Innovation.

The MRC supports high-quality science that will help improve the health of people in the UK and around the world. It welcomes proposals from researchers working in areas ranging from fundamental laboratory science through to early clinical trials and translational research; and all applications for funding are reviewed by panels of independent experts. The MRC’s mission also includes helping to produce the next generation of skilled researchers, and the Council does this by investing in early career clinical and non-clinical scientists.

Mariana is the main point of contact at the MRC for researchers wishing to submit proposals with a cancer focus. She can assess whether a proposal fits the remit of the MRC and whether the applicant is eligible for MRC funding. She can also recommend which MRC scheme might be the best fit for a proposal. Mariana also engages with the cancer research community by attending conferences and organises MRC activities relevant to cancer research.

Typically, proposals with a cancer focus are submitted to the MRC’s Molecular and Cellular Medicine Board (MCMB). Proposals with a strong translational emphasis might be best suited for the Biomedical Catalyst: Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme (DFPS); MCMB and DPFS accept proposals three times a year. If you are considering submitting to the MRC but are unsure about which scheme would be the best fit, please contact Mariana via email

Researchers considering applying for a Fellowship at the MRC should contact the Fellowships mailbox

Pick of the papers

Revised Modified Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumours for Assessment of Response in Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma (Version 1.1)

Adoption of the modified RECIST 1.1 guidelines for mesothelioma is recommended to harmonise the application of tumour measurement and response assessment across clinical trials.

Read more

Development and validation of response markers to predict survival and pleurodesis success in patients with malignant pleural effusion (PROMISE): a multicohort analysis

The PROMISE study was designed to discover, validate, and prospectively assess biomarkers of survival and pleurodesis response in malignant pleural effusion and build a score that predicts survival.

Read more

Gemcitabine synergises with immune checkpoint inhibitors and overcomes resistance in a preclinical model and mesothelioma patients

Treatment of mesothelioma with a combination of gemcitabine with immune checkpoint inhibitors is feasible and results in synergistic clinical response compared to single treatment in the absence of steroids.

Read more

Good to know

We’ve pulled together some useful updates, relevant whether your research is basic or clinical.