SCIENTISTS funded by an Abingdon breast cancer charity will move to the UK’s first dedicated centre for cancer immunology research.

Research fellow Professor Max Crispin has been granted a professorship at Southampton University, where he and his team will continue their work to develop a new type of treatment against secondary breast cancer.

Professor Crispin said: "This amazing new centre and my appointment as professor will greatly benefit the secondary breast cancer drug development programme that is being funded by Against Breast Cancer.”

Professor Crispin and his group of biochemists at Oxford University were awarded a four-year grant in 2015 by Against Breast Cancer, which is based at Leathem House in Abingdon.

The grant enabled them to design drugs that attach to two different molecular structures that should only be found together on cancerous cells and not on healthy cells.

This cell-targeting approach labels the cancerous cells as dangerous and allow the bodies’ own immune system to destroy them, which should minimise side effects as healthy cells are ignored.

These new drugs, termed ‘bi-specific antibodies’ could improve upon current treatments for secondary breast cancer, for which there is currently no cure.

The Centre for Cancer Immunology at Southampton University is expected to open in the autumn and will bring world leading cancer scientists under one roof and enable interdisciplinary teams to expand clinical trials and develop lifesaving drugs.

Dr Nicola Winstone, research manager at Against Breast Cancer, said: “We’re delighted that Professor Crispin’s diligence and expertise have been recognised in this way and we are looking forward to seeing the results of the next phase of drug development at Southampton.

"All being well, by 2019 these experimental drugs could be ready for testing in people who have secondary breast cancer that is resistant to current treatments”

Current antibody treatments bind a single molecule on cancerous cells, which means they work well in people with cancer cells that have lots of the target molecule present on the cell surface.

But they are not effective in treating cancers that display lower numbers of the target molecule.

Antibody treatments may also stick to healthy cells that display the target molecule, which can result in serious side effects for the patient or require extra monitoring during treatment.

By targeting two different elements on a cancer cell, scientists hope to circumnavigate these problems and create treatments that can be administered safely to a greater number of patients and be effective against different types of secondary breast cancer, and potentially other cancer types too.

At least one in four breast cancer cases result in secondary spread, also called metastasis, advanced or stage four breast cancer, which is diagnosed when breast cancer tumours are found in other parts of the body, commonly the lungs, liver, bones or brain.

Current treatments aim to prevent further tumour growth and spread and to manage symptoms.