Cancer Research UK launches the first in a series of multimillion-pound clinical research centres to be rolled out across the UK.
The new flagship centres are designed to get new treatments to patients faster, by finding practical applications for the huge amount of new biological knowledge.
The inaugural centre is located at Barts and The London, Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry, and will host 280 Cancer Research UK scientists and doctors.
In its first year, Cancer Research UK and Queen Mary will together spend £11 million in the new centre.
Cancer Research UK will launch at least five more clinical research centres in the first wave of the programme, the next of which will be in Leeds. They are being created to enhance clinically related research at locations where Cancer Research UK already has extensive investment.
Cancer Research UK’s Chief Executive Professor Alex Markham says: “The launch of this programme of centres marks the beginning of an exciting new strategy for the charity. We have generated a huge volume of biological knowledge about cancer. By pulling a variety of research programmes together we aim to translate that wealth of information into treatments as quickly as possible.”
The Cancer Research UK Clinical Centre at Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry will bring the programmes of leading researchers together to foster collaboration and speed the process of developing new cancer therapies. Scientists at the centre will concentrate on frontiers of cancer research, such as viral treatments and tailored gene therapies.
The Centre’s location at the heart of two internationally renowned London hospitals means the charity will have more opportunity than ever to enrol patients into clinical trials for testing pioneering new treatments.
Three leading scientists have already moved their entire research programmes to the School of Medicine and Dentistry from other locations to be part of the Centre, and others will follow in the near future. Research at the Centre will focus on five key areas:
- Molecular pathology, genomics and proteomics
- Epithelial biology, including adult stem cell research
- Imaging and targeting
- Epidemiology, screening and prevention
- Early phase clinical trials of novel therapeutics
Cancer Research UK’s Professor Nick Lemoine, who will be Director of the Cancer Research UK Clinical Centre at Barts and The London, Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry, says: “Science is a collaborative process – and the biggest scientific advances often come into being when ideas from quite distinct areas of research meet. The new centre will spark just that kind of interaction between leading scientists in a variety of fields.
“The overarching theme of the new research programmes at the centre is ‘a molecular approach to cancer in patients and populations’. Put simply, that means turning our knowledge of the molecules which contribute to cancer into patient therapies we can test in hospitals and new strategies for cancer prevention.”
The creation of the centre has sparked new investment at the London site. Laboratories are being built at Barts and The London, with £5 million of investment from the medical school. In addition, the new £44 million medical school building next to the Royal London Hospital at Whitechapel will house some of the new laboratories for the Centre.
The opening of the centre also marks a big step forward in the School of Medicine and Dentistry’s strategy to focus on cancer and cardiovascular disease. Clinical trials will be key to the activities of the centre, as will epidemiology and research into screening programmes.
Professor Nick Wright, Warden of Barts and The London, Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry, says: “Much of our effort in cancer research in recent years has been directed at the basic understanding of the disease. Our strategy within the Centre, while continuing such essential research, will be to take these recent ideas and translate them, as soon as we can, into direct benefits for patients with cancer. This will include not only treatment, but intervention by large trials directed at preventing the development of cancer.
“We are all very excited about our new Centre, made possible through a strong collaboration between Cancer Research UK and the School”.
Professor Markham adds: “Scientific collaborations do of course happen already – but often on an ad hoc basis. Our new research programme will aim to structure, streamline and accelerate the process. Scientists working in complementary areas will be able to share ideas and equipment in a shared space, ensuring new ideas come to fruition quickly and smoothly.
“Best of all, doctors and scientists will work side by side. That will be key to getting new discoveries from the laboratory to the hospital ward.”
The locations selected for the new Centres for Clinical Cancer Research are already key sites for Cancer Research UK work. The charity funds research groups across the UK and the sites selected to host clinical centres are academic institutions with Cancer Research UK investment of at least £2 million per year.
The new centre will host 20 Cancer Research UK principal investigators and a further 260 researchers.
The Cancer Research UK research groups included in the centre have collective grants from the charity worth £6 million per annum. Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry has invested £5 million to develop the centre.