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The Bioscience behind: Cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment

19 April 2006

The link between crop research and the battle against cancer may not be immediately obvious, but this is just one of the examples in a new publication published by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBRSC) to highlight the important role of biosciences research in tackling cancer.

The Bioscience behind: Cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment explains how plant and food science at the John Innes Centre and the Institute of Food Research, both BBSRC-sponsored institutes, has led to the development and licensing of nutritionally enhanced broccoli containing high levels of natural potentially cancer-fighting compounds.

This is the first in a series of publications aimed at helping people to appreciate the crucial, but often invisible role played by bioscience research. Professor Julia Goodfellow, BBSRC Chief Executive explained: “Sometimes it maybe difficult to visualise the impact that basic research has on everyday aspects of the world around us. Studying the structure and function of molecules and microbes can seem far removed from some of the challenges we face such as improving health and developing more sustainable agriculture. This series of publications is designed to highlight the important role biosciences research plays in helping to tackle some of these challenges.”

Other examples outlined in the publication include:

  • Learning from fruit flies. By studying naturally abnormal fruit flies scientists at the University of Oxford have shown that a family of proteins which are used by cells to import amino acids also enhance the cells’ sensitivity to a hormone that regulates their growth. Drugs targeted against these transporters in humans could help stop uncontrolled growth in tumours.
  • Developing 3-D models. Researchers at the University of Dundee are developing 3-D mathematical models to help predict patterns of cancer cell migrations into healthy tissue. Such modelling techniques could help understand the spread of tumours as well as determine how much tissue should be removed surgically from around tumours.
  • Developing micro-scale resonators. Researchers at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne have developed tiny resonators that can act as highly sensitive mass sensors, binding to specific proteins identified as biochemical markers for different sorts of cancers. Ultimately it is hoped that this technology will enable the development of a hand-held device for quick and easy analysis of tissue, blood or smear samples.


Notes to editors

The Bioscience behind: Cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment is the first in a new series of publications to highlight the role of bioscience research in society. If you would like a hard copy, please contact the BBSRC Media Office.

The examples of research included in the publication supported by the BBSRC include many collaborative projects funded by the Medical Research Council, Government Departments, charities and industrial partnerships.


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £380 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.


Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299