Three Bears Research Fellow

Three Bears Foundation Research Fellow

Pancreatic Cancer

Despite it being a cancer with the lowest survival rate, there is currently no test or known cure for pancreatic cancer. Half of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer die within 3 months and only 2% of the annual cancer research budget goes to improving these statistics.  

The Three Bears Research Fellow

Can we stop cancer associated fibroblasts (CAFs) from protecting pancreatic cancer cells preventing treatment from the benefits of chemotherapy?

Funded by the Three Bears Foundation and match funded by York St John University, the Three Bears Research Fellow is a three-year research project which will investigate the molecular biology of pancreatic cancer. The research is being supervised by Professor Thomas A Hughes from The Hughes group who have recently relocated to the York St John University Medical Research Centre.

Research Fellow York

CAFs, or Cancer associated fibroblasts are cells that make up a variable but substantial proportion of the tumour mass in pancreatic cancer and other “epithelial” cancer types such as breast cancer. CAFs can impact on the behaviour of cancer cells and previous research has shown that CAFs can actually protect cancer cells from chemotherapy, resulting in chemotherapy working less well than it should. Using additional drugs, in combination with standard chemotherapy, scientists have worked out how to stop this fibroblast-based protection.

The Three Bears Research Fellow will test if a combination of therapies that work in breast cancer will give improved treatment responses in pancreatic cancer. The ultimate aim of this research is to use therapeutic combinations to improve chemotherapy responses and therefore improve cancer survival in patients with pancreatic cancer.

Our Story

In September 2017 Jane was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Just 12 weeks later we were saying our final goodbyes and trying to imagine a life without her. Our plans of travels and precious family time during retirement vanished overnight.

The Three Bears Foundation was set up by Jane’s son, Chris Burn, to help raise and maintain awareness of pancreatic cancer on a local level and help fight to find an effective treatment to give others a higher chance of survival.

To date, the charity has raised over £150,000 and has worked closely with local trusts and Pancreatic Cancer UK to ensure the money can be spent to support other families. In 2023 we donated £35,000 to sponsor the building of the new state of the art ‘Three Bears Family Room’ at the York Against Cancer Leveson Centre located at York Community Stadium. The space has been fully equipped with everything that cancer patients and their friends and family across North and East Yorkshire might need to support them during their visits to the centre.

Supporting future families

In 2024 we are very excited to be sponsoring a 3-year research project with Professor Thomas Hughes at the York St John biomedical research department. The Three Bears Research Fellow project, will cost £20,000 a year to fund, and will be looking at how therapeutic combinations could be used to improve chemotherapy responses and therefore improve survival of pancreatic cancer.

“We are keen to put our time and efforts into something that can make a huge difference to families in the future and hopefully start to tip the scales in our favour when it comes to pancreatic cancer survival. It’s a fantastic opportunity to be able to support research happening right here in our home town of York and we are delighted to be backing The Hughes Group.”  says Mark Burn, Three Bears Trustee.  

How to support the Three Bears Research Fellow

We are asking local businesses, individuals and groups to ‘Choose a challenge’ in 2024 to help raise much needed funds and awareness for the ‘Three Bears Research Fellow’ project. Here’s how you can help:

  • Donate to the Three Bears Research Fellow:
  • Sign up to our newsletter to follow our journey – scroll to the bottom of this page!
  • Get involved with ‘Choose a challenge’ to help fund raise for us – contact us to find out more!

The Hughes group

Professor Thomas A Hughes is a Professor of Biosciences and academic cancer biologist with an extensive record of leading research in biomedicine.

“The aim of my research is to increase understanding of the biology of cancers, with a view to using these new insights to improve cancer outcomes.”

Q&A with Professor Tom Hughes:

  1. Where did the idea come from for the research?

The idea for this research came from related research that we’ve published in breast cancer.  Breast cancer and pancreatic cancer are similar to each other, although a little unusual compared to other cancer types, in that the tumour mass of both includes the cancer cells but also lots and lots of other support cells, called fibroblasts.

We’ve shown in breast cancer that these fibroblasts protect the cancer cells from chemotherapy.  We’ve also worked out how to stop the fibroblasts from doing this, so we should be able to make chemotherapy work better.  We want to test whether this is true in pancreatic cancer as well, with the hope of making pancreatic cancer treatments more effective.

  • What was it about the three bears foundation that caught your eye?

Their focus on improving survival after pancreatic cancer.  At the moment, the proportion of people who live even 1 year after a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is really low and we desperately need better treatments.

  • Why personally are you interested in the project?

I’ve always wanted “to cure cancer”.  This is what I used to say I was going to do when I was 10 years old in science lessons.  Maybe this project is my chance!

Applications for the Three Bear Research Fellow have been reviewed by The Hughes Group and we are delighted to announce that Lewis Reed has been chosen as the successful candidate who will be in place by October 2024. Sign up to our newsletter below to follow this project!