The treatment is suitable for patients with advanced liver cancer that has been diagnosed too late for them to benefit from other interventions such as surgery, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy.
AZD5069 was originally developed for the treatment of asthma and is currently going through clinical trials.
Professor Mann stated in a Newcastle University press release: “At the present time, the prognosis for liver cancer that’s caught late isn’t good.
“Immunotherapy can be successful for these patients, but it doesn’t work as well as we would like and unfortunately it doesn’t work for everyone.
“The end result of this grant, and our research, is to try to improve that situation and for more patients to have better results.
“It’s about enabling these patients to live with their cancer but such that they live better and longer with it.”
Immunotherapy works by helping the immune system to recognise cancer cells and attack them. Hepatocellular carcinoma, or HCC, is a type of liver cancer that can develop when a patient has liver disease, including those caused by viral infections or fatty liver diseases.
However, immunotherapy is still only effective for a minority of patients and may be less effective in patients who have an HCC with a background of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
The Newcastle researchers work in collaboration with a team at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow and have already discovered that white blood cells called neutrophils can be harnessed to treat liver cancer tumours.
With the grant, the Newcastle team will have the opportunity to expand upon the initial finding of AZD5069 and gain a comprehensive understanding of how neutrophils stimulate immunotherapy.
The team aims to uncover novel immunotherapeutic approaches that have the potential to benefit a greater number of patients with HCC.