UNIVERSITY professors have received funding for a pioneering cancer drug that could save hundreds of thousands of people every year.

Worldwide Cancer Research has awarded researchers at the University of Sussex £187,500 to continue their development of a potential new cancer drug.

The research, led by Professor John Spencer, could one day lead to a new way to treat many different types of cancer.

The drug fixes cells damaged by the disease.

The team has developed a course of treatment that reactivates a protein called p53 destroyed by cancer - and linked to around 100,000 new cancer cases every year.

Prof Spencer was awarded the funding after a Dragons Den style meeting involving some of the world’s leading cancer researchers.

Prof Spencer now wants to identify the best way to make the drug effective and reduce negative side-effects and make sure it does not attack healthy cells.

Ultimately, this research could lay the foundations towards the future development of a brand new drug capable of targeting a wide range of cancers.

Prof Spencer said: “Being able to apply for funding from organisations such as Worldwide Cancer Research is vital for us to carry out the fundamental research that’s needed to develop the next generation of cancer treatments. But the benefits of the funding also go beyond the science. Previous support from Worldwide Cancer Research has enabled students of mine to achieve PhDs in cancer research as well as supporting postgraduates in my lab. These are the innovative researchers of tomorrow that we need to invest in today, in order to secure future breakthroughs in cancer research.”

Dr Helen Rippon, chief executive of Worldwide Cancer Research, said: “We are delighted to continue supporting Professor Spencer at the University of Sussex. We have been funding research on p53 for 30 years, from the earliest days of deciphering the first understanding of the protein and its role in cancer, to designing new drugs today, based on that knowledge. Professor Spencer’s work has the potential to produce new treatments that could be used to treat many people with different cancers.”

Prof Spencer’s project is being carried out in collaboration with Professor Sir Alan Fersht at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, and Dr Andreas Joerger from the German Cancer Consortium.