Improving cancer treatment

Potentially important discoveries about cancer treatments have been made by our biological sciences researchers.

The areas they have focussed on include:

  • whether yoga can improve quality of life for gynaecological cancer patients
  • whether the shelf life of a breast cancer drug can be extended, saving cancer hospitals significant amounts of money.


Can yoga improve gynaecological cancer patients’ quality of life?

The first UK- based randomised controlled clinical trial of yoga for gynaecological cancer patients was led by Dr Heidi Sowter, our Reader in Oncology. This demonstrated that yoga could improve patients’ health, wellbeing and quality of life.

Some gynaecological cancers are difficult to treat and have lower recovery rates than other cancers, so any intervention that improved quality of life was important.

The trial found that yoga significantly contributed to these patients’ quality of life, with many continuing weekly yoga sessions after the trial. Patients put together a book about their positive experiences of yoga during the trial and the trial’s findings have been promoted on local and regional radio, raising awareness amongst other gynaecological cancer patients.

Student involvement: PhD student, Dr Stephanie Archer, was responsible for the day-to-day running of the trial. She is now a post-doctoral scientist at Imperial College London and an associate psychology lecturer at our University.


Can the shelf life of a breast cancer drug be extended?

Data gathered by our researchers helped support an extension to the shelf life of an important breast cancer drug, Trastuzumab (tradename Herceptin®).

Previously, Trastuzumab’s manufacturer recommended it be used within 24 hours of preparation and stored in an IV (intravenous) therapy bag. Although this is standard practice for such drugs, it caused significant drug wastage and expense.

Our study, led by Dr Alan-Shaun Wilkinson, aimed to prove that Trastuzumab wouldn’t lose its potency or become harmful when stored for over 24 hours in an IV therapy bag. Our innovative study used a biological cellular test to check that the drug still worked as it should after being stored for longer.

Storing the prepared drug for up to 119 days didn’t compromise its effectiveness or pose a threat to patient health, so our researchers recommended extending the shelf-life of Trastuzumab for up to 14 days, allowing pharmacists to prepare the drug in advance and reduce drug wastage. This eliminates the need for out of hours working, reducing costs and improving pharmacy staff safety.

This saved a leading cancer hospital £1.3 million in the first six months of being introduced, allowing them to treat a third more patients using the same amount of the drug.


Research areas
Postgraduate Study at Derby