Cancer Chemistry degree is first of its kind in the country


22 May 2007

The University of Leicester is launching a new one-year taught Masters degree in Cancer Chemistry.

The degree is the first of its kind in the country, fulfilling a need to provide graduates with skills in the chemistry and biology of cancer, and direct experience of some of the very latest research in the field.  

The course will cover new approaches to cancer diagnosis and treatment and involve the design and synthesis of small molecule cancer drugs, equipping graduates for employment in the pharmaceutical industry and in academia.

The pioneering degree has been developed by Dr Paul Jenkins from the Leicester University Department of Chemistry, who has research expertise in the development of chemotherapeutic drugs. 

He said "I think that this unique course will equip graduates to take part in the exciting and rewarding field of anti-cancer drug development. It will explain the biological pathways involved in cancer and how to design non-toxic small molecules to intervene specifically in these pathways to produce the next generation of cancer drugs."

The main issue with cancer chemotherapy at the moment is that it is based on selective toxicity of the cancer drug for the tumour cells. This selectivity is never perfect and the treatments have considerable side effects.  

One of the newest cancer drugs is Gleevec which is a specific non toxic inhibitor of a key protein in a cancer control pathway. Future developments will involve drugs of this type. 

Leicester is a national centre for clinical research in the field of cancer. The Chemistry Department is conducting research funded by CRUK to develop non-toxic inhibitors of a key check-point enzyme in the cell division process.  

In cancer cells, growth is very rapid and one way to combat this is to stop cells dividing by specific inhibition of the enzymes that control the cell cycle. "Our results have been encouraging" said Dr Jenkins, "and two of our researchers will present results at a medicinal chemistry conference in Lille later this year." 

The degree is aimed at graduates in chemistry or a related discipline and non-graduates with appropriate experience. Cancer Research UK has supplied three bursaries covering fees and stipend for UK and EEA students taking the MSc in Cancer Chemistry. 

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