HPV research project launched with Kingston University

11 June 2020

Kingston Hospital and Kingston University have teamed up to launch a PhD studentship, studying HPV and its effect on upper gastrointestinal cancers.

The project will investigate the role of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) in the development of upper gastrointestinal cancers (oesophageal and gastric), which are major health problems worldwide. It is hoped that this research will provide insight into the causes and treatment of these increasingly common cancers, via early screening and vaccination.

Muhamad O Shafiq (known as Osama) has been appointed to the three year studentship, funded by Kingston Hospital Charity and the Laurie Todd Foundation, established by local resident Maundy Todd in memory of her late husband, who was diagnosed with Advanced Oesophageal cancer in 2019.

In December last year, Kingston Hospital was recognised in the Lancet editorial for its efforts to promote research and for making more clinical trials available to its patients. The Trust’s progress has also been recognised by the National Institute for Health Research, which named Kingston Hospital as the top acute trust in England for the percentage increase in research studies now available for patients.

Dr Hossein Ashrafi, Associate Professor in Pathology and Cancer Biology within the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing at Kingston University, said: “Establishing a relationship between upper gastrointestinal cancer development and high risk HPV subtypes would provide invaluable insight into the role this virus plays in the formation of oesophageal and gastric tumours. This could, in turn, lead to the broadening of early HPV screening and the development of vaccines that could help prevent and treat some forms of gastrointestinal cancer.

“This project demonstrates the importance of the relationship Kingston University has developed with its local hospital NHS Foundation Trust. It will bring mutual benefit to both institutions and allow us to further strengthen our research links, ultimately benefitting patient care.”

Dr Helen Matthews, Research Director and Consultant Gastroenterologist at Kingston Hospital, said: “As Research Director at Kingston Hospital and a Consultant Gastroenterologist, I am very excited to start our joint project with Professor Ashrafi at Kingston University investigating the role of Human Papilloma Virus in the development of oesophageal cancer.  As a team, we hope that this will lead to future insights into the causes and treatment of this increasingly common and difficult to treat cancer. In addition, we can build on this project to create more collaborations between our local academic centre, Kingston University, and our clinical team at the hospital to answer questions that are of real importance to our local population and community.

“We are very proud that we are getting increasing national recognition as a research centre – Kingston Hospital has recently been used as an outstanding example of how to improve equality of access to research in a Lancet editorial (December 2019).  One of the key strategic steps noted in this article was the closer partnership with Kingston University and the Royal Marsden Hospital to allow access for our local patients to cutting edge innovation and research.  We are hugely grateful to the Laurie Todd Foundation, without whose support we would be unable to pursue this really important work.”

Maundy Todd, founder of the Laurie Todd Foundation, said: “I am so pleased that, despite the current incredibly difficult conditions, Kingston Hospital and Kingston University have started work on this research. I hope it will contribute to earlier diagnosis for oesophageal cancer. My husband, Laurie, died six weeks after diagnosis, despite Kingston’s and The Royal Marsden’s heroic efforts.”

To find out more about the Laurie Todd Foundation, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/laurietoddfoundation  

To find out more about Kingston Hospital Charity, visit www.khc.org.uk

Tell us how we are doing we'd love to have your opinion