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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/W007096/1
Title: Oncological Engineering - A new concept in the treatment of bone metastases
Principal Investigator: Hall, Professor RM
Other Investigators:
Walker-Samuel, Professor S de Boer, Dr G N Shipley, Professor RJ
Hewson, Dr RW Myant, Dr CW Frangi, Professor AF
Robinson, Professor P Bryant, Dr M Borse, Mr V
Redmond, Professor AC Santer, Dr MJ Timothy, Mr J
Ovenden, Professor NC
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Airbus Operations Limited ETH Zurich Lulea University of Technology
Photocentric Ltd Simulation Solutions TOffeeAM Ltd
University of Florida Uppsala University
Department: Mechanical Engineering
Organisation: University of Leeds
Scheme: Programme Grants
Starts: 01 April 2022 Ends: 31 March 2027 Value (£): 5,608,939
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Biomaterials Biomechanics & Rehabilitation
Medical science & disease
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Healthcare
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
30 Nov 2021 Element Programme Grant Interviews 30 November and 1 December 2021 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Approximately 2 million people are living with cancer in the UK and this number is set to rise considerably over the next decade to 3.2M. A significant complication of late stage (stage 4) cancer is metastases or secondary tumours which are caused by tumour cells spreading to different locations in the body. Metastases are particularly associated with breast cancer, which is the most common cancer in females and the leading cause of cancer deaths in this group. Figures vary but some studies put a figure of about 50-60 % of patients will have bone metastases in late stage cancer. The tumours weaken the bone and lead to a variety of problems for the patients at a time when quality of life is a paramount consideration, especially as the prognosis is usually terminal. Significant issues include severe pain and spinal fracture which made lead to spinal cord injury. These complications often require major surgery which encroaches, significantly, on the patients' quality of life, when life expectancy is a matter of months and may, in certain cases, provide a mechanism of further spread of the cancer. Currently, there are no implants for supporting the bones before fracture as we cannot identify which vertebrae are likely to fail.

OncoEng will deliver a paradigm shift in the current treatment technologies and stratification of care based on the application of core enabling engineering technologies. A more patient-friendly approach is realised in OncoEng in which we predict which vertebrae with tumours are likely to fail in the future enabling informed decision on care. Advanced computational modelling and imaging will be used to look at the growth of the tumour so that predictions of the strength of the vertebrae can be calculated a different points in time. These strengths can then be compared to spinal loads and an assessment of fracture risk undertaken. Those vertebrae at his risk would then receive special implant to support the weakened bone and prevent fracture. This implant would only require key-hole surgery and would not impinge on the patient's quality of life through a lengthy recuperation period or additional pain. The research proposed responds to the Cancer Strategy in the NHS Long Term Plan and the EU's Beating Cancer Plan.

Three Universities in the UK, University of Leeds, Imperial College and University College London, have come together to deliver this research so as to make a big change in the way these patients are treated. In addition we have formed an international network of academic, industrial and clinical collaborators from Europe, USA and Australia (OncoEng+ Network) with a focus on novel modelling, imaging, advanced materials and innovative medical devices to overcome the challenges of predicting fracture and producing a new implant. Impacts from the research include (1) new diagnostic tools for predicting bone failure using imaging and advanced computational modelling, which can be used in this and other disease such as osteoporosis, (2) a new patient-specific implant that can be inserted using minimally invasive surgery reducing the trauma to the patient and having a shorter recovery period (days rather than weeks or months); the implant would be inserted before the vertebrae is susceptible to fracture, (3) new manufacturing techniques for the delivery of the minimally invasive implant, which have wide ranging applications outside medicine including the aerospace and automotive sector, and (4) new test methodologies for spinal implants to ensure that these devices are tested under a range of activities including adverse conditions such as high patient loading. Importantly, the programme grant will train and up-skill a new generation engineers and scientists in a novel area of application-based research, that of devices for skeletal cancers and software for fracture prediction, and aims to bring together activities in the UK and internationally to form a holistic integrated activity.

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Organisation Website: http://www.leeds.ac.uk