Identifying molecular markers for improving the outcomes of radiotherapy and leading to spin out company Mantra Diagnostics

Impact: Health and wellbeing, Economic


Radiotherapy is used in ~50% of cancer patients and was part of the treatment of ~50% of long-term cancer survivors. Advances in radiotherapy are a cost-effective way of improving outcomes and reducing the economic burden of cancer. A limitation of current methods is that radiotherapy schedules treat populations and not individuals. There is a need for biomarkers so that radiotherapy can be given in a stratified medicine approach.

Tumours with low oxygen levels (hypoxia) are often associated with poorer outcomes from surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy and are more resistant to treatment. Our research is leading the way in developing hypoxia biomarkers to predict which patients will benefit from the addition of hypoxia targeting treatment to radiotherapy.

We have developed tumour-site-specific gene expression signatures to assess hypoxia (currently there is no way to measure this in routine clinical practice). Our work has the potential to deliver major advances in personalised cancer medicine and has resulted in the creation of a spin out company Mantra Diagnostics through which our innovation will be available for patient research studies. The signatures can be used as the basis for a Companion Diagnostic (CDx) to stratify patients for treatment and as a mechanism to direct therapy choices.

To date hypoxia related gene signatures have been identified and validated in Head and Neck, Prostate, Sarcoma and Bladder Cancers, with each signature containing 20-30 genes. The head & neck signature is currently in Phase III clinical trials and other signatures are in clinical trial design and validation.
Impact date2010
Category of impactHealth and wellbeing, Economic
Impact levelEngagement

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Cancer
  • Manchester Cancer Research Centre