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10 ways Medic is making an impact

We have a successful track record of contributing to society through our research, learning and teaching, and innovation and engagement activity.

Efforts by many staff and students highlight a rich variety of ways in which we're engaging with and benefitting society. Here are just ten recent examples:

Professor Kate Brain and Dr Grace McCutchan have been working with Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board to develop a vague cancer symptom awareness campaign for people living in the South Wales Valleys.

We know that low public awareness of vague cancer symptoms (e.g. persistent unexplained tiredness) combined with fearful beliefs about cancer can put people off going to the doctor – the campaign aims to overcome these known barriers.

The campaign will get cancer awareness messages to the public through trained local cancer champions and targeted adverts (e.g. on pharmacy bags, buses, and Facebook) to empower people to visit their doctor with important symptoms.

Professor Antony Bayer was awarded an MBE for services to Healthcare in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. Professor Bayer is a Professor of Geriatric Medicine and Director of the Memory Assessment Service at Cardiff and Vale UHB, University Hospital Llandough.

Professor Bayer’s research focuses on the epidemiology, assessment and clinical management of cognitive disorders and neurodegenerative disease, especially Alzheimer’s disease.

His interests also extended to the clinical trials of new pharmacological and nonpharmacological treatments for dementia and the organisation of services.

Researchers have discovered that a family of lipids (fats) contribute to the development of a serious aortic disease, by driving clotting in the blood vessel wall.

The team, involving researchers at Cardiff, Oxford and Erlangen, discovered that the lipids, called eoxPL, promote the development of abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) - a disease of the aorta where inflammation causes damage and can ultimately lead to rupture.

Professor Valerie O’Donnell, who led the research, said: “After discovering new lipids that promote blood clotting, we wondered if they also played a part in AAA, as we know the condition is linked to blood clotting."

“Our research found that these lipids in circulating blood cells did promote AAA formation in the vessel wall, because they directly regulate blood clotting."

“Unexpectedly, when administered into the blood system, the same lipids were also found to have preventative properties because rather than being made by circulating blood cells in the vessel wall, they instead mop up clotting factors, causing them to be removed from circulation, and preventing disease.”

The findings could lead to the development of new treatments for this potentially life threatening condition.

On the Sunday of the Tafwyl festival in Cardiff Castle grounds, fifth year undergraduate medical students, Rhiannon Jones and Gwenllian Rhys hosted a DIY surgery session.

Lots of young future surgeons came to the Cardiff University tent and had fun with the laproscopic kit. Rhiannon said: “It was a great to be a part of this year’s Tafwyl, I thoroughly enjoyed engaging with people young and old. It was fantastic to share and see such enthusiasm about medicine.”

Psychosocial variables such as self-efficacy and social support are known influences on an individual’s motivation to quit smoking; however, evidence regarding their impact on quit motivation in the population of older smokers from deprived backgrounds is limited. The aim of the current study is to identify determinants of quit motivation in older smokers from deprived communities.

An online survey of smokers, aged 50 years or older and from socioeconomically deprived backgrounds is currently being conducted.

The survey findings will be used to identify modifiable psychological variables that may be targeted in a future supportive smoking cessation intervention.

Superbugs came to Cardiff city centre this summer, providing hundreds of families with the opportunity to learn about the microbial world and discover the bacteria that live in, on and around us.

Dr Jonathan Tyrrell, who led this public engagement initiative following a successful application to the Wellcome Institutional Strategic Support fund said: “It was exciting to take the science behind antibiotic resistance out to the community and see so many families engaging with the science and learning the part they can play in helping us to solve this global problem.”

“This was a massive undertaking but I am thrilled with the feedback and initial evaluation from the event which supports a massive increase in knowledge on antibiotic resistance and I am delighted that so many children took the opportunity to become Antibiotic Resistance Champions.”

See further information on this event.

Working in partnership with NHS Blood and Transplant, medical students have been delivering teaching sessions on organ donation to year 6 and year 8 pupils across South East Wales.

This forms part of a pilot project aiming to stimulate conversations and debate about organ and tissue donation among children, and to encourage them to have conversations about their wishes and to learn about the wishes of their family members. The pilot involved 18 primary and 6 secondary schools.

The sessions have received positive feedback and the project is now being evaluated, with a view to rolling it out across Wales.

Over 300,000 people in the UK have Type 1 diabetes and the drug used to treat them – insulin – has not changed in 98 years. Researchers at Cardiff and Swansea Universities are running a new trial to investigate whether a medicine currently used for the skin condition psoriasis could also be used to help people with type 1 diabetes produce some of their own insulin.

Professor Colin Dayan, said: “In the early stages of type 1 diabetes about 20% of insulin producing cells could still be working.We’re offering newly diagnosed patients the opportunity to potentially save some of these cells, making it easier for them to control blood glucose levels. This could also reduce their risk of complications.”

Professor Colin Dayan concluded: “We hope that at the end of this study we’ll have some idea of whether this drug is well tolerated and whether it works to hold on to the insulin.”

See more information on the USTEKID trial.

Millions of patients with incurable breast cancer could benefit from Welsh-led research which shows it is possible to control the cancer for twice as long by combing an investigational therapy with standard treatment.

Involving 140 patients from 19 hospitals across the UK, the cancer trial called FAKTION investigated whether researchers could reverse or delay resistance to hormone therapy in post-menopausal women whose cancer had spread by adding the drug Capivasertib, which neutralises a protein that has been shown to cause resistance to hormone therapy.

One of the patients, retired doctor Susan Cunningham from Cardiff, joined the trial in 2017 after she discovered her cancer had spread and was incurable. “Being on a trial has given me great hope for the future. It’s meant that I have been relatively well for the past two years. Initially I thought I wasn’t going to see my grandchildren but now I have hope that I am going to survive an awful lot longer and see my family grow.”

More types of cancer could potentially be destroyed by patients’ own immune cells, thanks to new research by Cardiff University. The team of researchers discovered that increasing the amount of the molecule L-selectin on T-cells can vastly improve their ability to fight solid tumours.

Professor Ann Ager, from Cardiff University’s Systems Immunity Research Institute, said: “These results mean that immunotherapy could be used to fight most cancers. This is great news as this type of treatment is more targeted and doesn’t damage healthy cells.”

Dr John Maher, from King’s College London, added: “This research revealing a new role for L-selectin in cancer immunotherapy offers great promise as a novel device to enhance the efficacy of engineered T cell immunotherapies for solid tumours.”

The research ‘L-selectin enhanced T cells improve the Efficacy of Cancer Immunotherapy’ is published in Frontiers in Immunology.

Read the full edition

ReMEDy edition 32

ReMEDy edition 32

30 July 2019

Take a look inside and see what we've been doing.