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National Cancer Research Institute unveils seventeen new Experimental Cancer Research Centres

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by Cancer Research UK | News

9 October 2006

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A major network of Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres (ECMC) across the UK is announced today at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference, with a funding boost of £35 million from Cancer Research UK and the Departments of Health in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

An international review panel awarded grants to seventeen centres based on their scientific and clinical excellence. They will each receive around £2 million over the next five years to drive new anti-cancer treatments to patients.

The centres are: Barts and the London, Birmingham, Belfast, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Imperial College, Institute of Cancer Research, King’s College London, Leeds-Bradford-Hull-York, Leicester, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford, Southampton and University College London. Two further centres, Liverpool and Sheffield, will be under development and will receive grants of around £150,000 each year.

This major expansion and development will support world-class translational research across the UK – ensuring basic science discoveries are developed into treatments for cancer patients as quickly as possible. The substantial increase in funding will ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of international efforts to develop new treatments for cancer.

The initiative is being developed under the umbrella of the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) and will be fully coordinated with the UK Clinical Research Collaboration’s (UKCRC) activities in experimental medicine outside cancer.

The network will build on the successful work of the Departments of Health-funded National Translational Cancer Research Network (NTRAC). NTRAC was established in 2002 as part of the National Cancer Plan to help facilitate translational cancer research in the NHS.

The funding will cover clinical, laboratory and NHS infrastructure costs enabling centres to bring together laboratory and clinical research, sharing knowledge and resources for the benefit of cancer patients. The funds will underpin the translational work needed to develop new anti-cancer drugs and diagnostics from the laboratory into clinics and then to test them in early clinical trials.

Professor Herbie Newell, director of translational research at Cancer Research UK, who will oversee the running of the network, said: “This initiative will provide the vital infrastructure to help laboratory scientists, clinicians, nurses and support staff accelerate research that benefits patients. This investment will promote research into the development of new drugs and test individualisation of patient care over the next five years.

“Cancer Research UK and its NCRI partners are well placed to exploit the opportunities presented by the basic science strengths and clinical research expertise in the UK. We aim to build upon the proven success of the NTRAC centres to manage a highly efficient network of Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres.”

Health Minister Andy Burnham welcomed today’s announcement: “Significant progress has been made in improving cancer services since the launch of the Cancer Plan six years ago. Cancer death rates are falling across the board. We are not complacent though and this important investment in experimental cancer medicine means that cancer patients will receive faster access to improved, safer treatments and the highest quality patient care. It demonstrates the commitment of the Government and key partners to work together to establish the UK as a world leader in clinical research. The NHS plays a vital role in translating medical advances from the laboratory bench to the patient’s bedside. This initiative is an essential step that will ultimately lead to improving the care we offer cancer patients and the public.”

Professor Sally Davies, director of research and development for the Department of Health, said: “This initiative is dedicating vital funding to develop new treatments for cancer patients and this substantial investment in experimental medicine underpins our commitment to this important area of research. We are delighted to support this initiative through the provision of essential NHS infrastructure funding.”

Dr Alison Spaull from the Chief Scientist’s Office at the Scottish Executive said: “We are delighted that Cancer Research UK is making this significant investment into experimental cancer medicine. The Scottish Executive is committed to increasing the number of patients involved in clinical trials and this initiative will go someway to help achieve this ambition as well as improving patient care.”

Professor John Williams, director of the Wales Office of Research and Development, Welsh Assembly Government, said: “Making the leap from discovering a medicine that looks promising in the laboratory to testing it in patients is extremely challenging, and this initiative will ensure scientists and doctors have the resources they need to enable this critical area of research to prosper.”

Professor Bob Stout, director of research and development for Northern Ireland Health and Personal Social Services, said: “Northern Ireland is delighted to be part of this pioneering initiative that will enable patients to receive new and better treatments for cancer sooner.”

Dr Jane Cope, director of the NCRI, said: “This funding will ensure that innovative cancer research in the UK has the support and infrastructure in place to allow basic science discoveries to benefit patients in the clinic as fast as possible. The network of centres across the UK will allow for best practice and knowledge to be shared for the benefit of patients, and we look forward to seeing the results of this important investment in years to come.”


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