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Kingston Hospital Trust - Research

Lead by Dr Hossein Ashrafi, Associate Professor in Pathology and Cancer Biology within the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing at Kingston University and Dr Helen Matthews, Research Director and Consultant Gastroenterologist at Kingston Hospital

Kingston University and Kingston Hospital trust join forces to explore relationship between HPV and upper gastrointestinal cancers

Kingston OCT20 Research pic.jpg

An Investigation on the association of high risk human papillomavirus (HPV) types and gastrointestinal cancer

A 3 year Investigation on the association of high risk human papillomavirus (HPV) types and gastrointestinal cancer : a UK based Study

Director of Studies: Dr Hossein Ashrafi, School of Life Sciences, Kingston University, Hospital Supervisor Dr Helen Matthews, Consultant Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist, Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
‘HPVs are recognised as carcinogenic agents in humans, are a large family of common viruses and types 16 and 18 known to be the initiating event in cervical cancer’.

Dr Ashrafi’s research findings ‘in collaboration with Kingston Hospital NHS Trust have shown the first ever evidence for the presence of HPV viral DNA in freshly obtained human breast cancer tissue of UK patients. These findings, published in ‘Scientific Reports – Nature, have received international attention’

The 3 year Research Study, of which we have committed to funding two years and the Hospital Charity has agreed to fund one year, started on 9th March 2020. The PhD student conducting the research is Muhamad O Shafiq who has an MSc in cancer biology.

Dr Ashrafi has a PhD from Beatson Institute for Cancer Research, University of Glasgow in 1998 where he worked on viral causes of cancer. In the same year he was offered a postdoctoral fellowship in the Medical Oncology Laboratory at Glasgow University's Medical School. He was awarded a Royal Society Developing World Study Visit fellowship for distinguished postdoctoral work on relationship between papillomavirus and immune response.

He joined Kingston University, London in 2009 where he is currently an Associate Professor / Reader in Pathology, Course Leader for MSc Cancer Biology, fellow of Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS), Fellow of Higher Education (FHEA). He teaches a range of Medical Science modules, supervises PhD research students, and leads an active research group on the interactions between the human host, viral pathogen and cancer, and also therapeutic approaches toward Human Papillomavirus (HPV) related cancers.

‘We are pleased to have received the funding for Year 1 from the Laurie Todd Foundation and started the research study on ‘the association of high risk human papillomavirus (HPV ) types and Gastro-intestinal Cancer on 9th March 2020’

Dr Helen Matthews – Gastroenterology Consultant – Kingston Hospital

“As Research Director at Kingston Hospital and a Consultant Gastroenterologist, I am very excited to start our joint project with Professor Ashrafi at Kingston University investigating the role of Human Papilloma Virus in the development of oesophageal cancer. As a team, we hope that this will lead to future insights into the causes and treatment of this increasingly common and difficult to treat cancer. In addition, we can build on this project to create more collaborations between our local academic centre, Kingston University, and our clinical team at the hospital to answer questions that are of real importance to our local population and community. We are very proud that we are getting increasing national recognition as a research centre – Kingston Hospital has recently been used as an outstanding example of how to improve equality of access to research in a Lancet editorial (December 2019). One of the key strategic steps noted in this article was the closer partnership with Kingston University and the Royal Marsden Hospital to allow access for our local patients to cutting edge innovation and research. We are hugely grateful to the Laurie Todd Foundation, without whose support we would be unable to pursue this really important work.”

PhD Study Update

We started collecting biopsies of upper gastrointestinal tissues from hospital patients in mid-October this year, with the expectation that around 100 samples will be processed and analysed during the lifetime of this project. The data collected from the ten samples analysed in the first month is very promising and will pave the way for further studies. Determining the presence of human papillomavirus (HPV) in normal benign and malignant upper gastrointestinal tissues collected from hospital patients will provide invaluable insight into the function of this virus in the development of upper gastrointestinal cancers.  This may in time lead to vaccine trials that could protect against oesophageal, gastric and other cancers where HPV is present, similar to the vaccine now being given to teenagers to protect against cervical and some head and neck cancers.


Dr Hossein Ashrafi (DVM, PhD, FIBMS, FHEA)

Associate Professor

Course Director for Cancer Biology

Kingston University London

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