Oxford Cancer have announced the endowment of a Chair in Clinical Oncology, thanks to generous philanthropic support from The Howat Foundation.

Their £3M gift, together with a further £1.5M from the Oxford Endowment Challenge Fund, will fund the Malcolm and Margaret Howat Chair in Clinical Oncology, a new permanent post currently held by Geoff Higgins, Associate Professor in the Department of Oncology, University of Oxford.

Geoff Higgins, is an Honorary Consultant Clinical Oncologist at Oxford University Hospitals, where he runs laboratory and clinical research groups focused on developing treatments that make tumour cells more sensitive to radiotherapy. Geoff is also a member of the NCITA Governance Group and chair of the NCITA Engagement Group.

The Howat Foundation has previously funded Geoff’s work through the ATOM study that explored whether atovaquone – a commonly used anti-malarial and pneumonia drug – could improve lung tumour receptiveness to canchttps://www.cancer.ox.ac.uk/reprogramming-tumour-cells-using-an-antimalarial-druger treatments.

The team is now investigating the potential of atovaquone in a phase 1 clinical study Arcadian  (Atovaquone with Radical ChemorADIotherapy in locally Advanced Non-small cell lung cancer),  which has been adopted by NCITA for NCITA Repository Unit support.

Following the permanent endowment of the chair, Geoff Higgins will continue to develop new strategies to increase the ability of radiotherapy to kill tumour cells without exacerbating the side effects of treatment. Where possible, he will also stress-test these strategies in clinical trials.

Commenting on the news, Geoff Higgins said:

I’m delighted to be able to share the news of the new Malcolm and Margaret Howat Chair in Clinical Oncology. The foundation’s endowment of the chair will enable us to develop new ways to improve the efficacy of radiotherapy and ultimately influence better outcomes for patients.’

Mark Middleton, Head of the Department of Oncology at the University of Oxford and Co-Director of Oxford Cancer, said:

The Malcolm and Margaret Howat Chair in Clinical Oncology supports a key area of our research and a talented individual in Geoff Higgins. Through his research, multiple programmes have been developed in partnership with industry which are now being tested in the clinic and promise to move the field forward for years to come.’

Tim Elliott, Kidani Professor of Immuno-Oncology and Co-Director of Oxford Cancer, added:

Donations like this are valued across the Oxford Cancer network and are critical for supporting our researchers’ diverse portfolios of ongoing research, aimed at predicting and detecting cancer earlier, devising new treatments and optimising existing ones. Without philanthropy, we simply couldn’t achieve the high level of research that we do.’

In a statement from the Howat Foundation, Malcolm Howat said:

We are delighted to be able to fund the Malcolm and Margaret Howat Chair in Clinical Oncology at Oxford University. Geoff Higgins is an exceptional scientist; his work on the ATOM trial has produced results that have serious potential to change the way some cancers could be treated. We look forward to the breakthroughs in research that he will no doubt continue to have in the future.’

Read the full story on the Oxford Cancer website.