Kingston Hospital and Kingston University have teamed up to initiate a PhD studentship to investigate the role of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) in the development of upper gastrointestinal cancers (oesophageal and gastric), which are major health problems worldwide. It is hoped that this research will provide insight into the causes and treatment of these increasingly common cancers, via early screening and vaccination.

Muhamad O Shafiq (known as Osama) has been appointed to the three-year studentship which started in May 2020.  The Laurie Todd Foundation, which was established by local resident Maundy Todd in memory of her late husband, who was diagnosed with advanced oesophageal cancer in 2019, has committed two years funding. On news that the PhD has got underway, Maundy said: “I am so pleased that, despite the current incredibly difficult conditions, Kingston Hospital and Kingston University have started work on the research. I hope it will contribute to ‘earlier diagnosis’ for oesophageal cancer.  My husband, Laurie, died six weeks after diagnosis, despite Kingston’s and the Marsden’s heroic efforts.”

Dr Helen Matthews, Research Director and Consultant Gastroenterologist at Kingston Hospital, said: “I am very excited to start our joint project with Professor Ashrafi at Kingston University investigating the role of HPV 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.”

To find out more about the Laurie Todd Foundation, visit