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Accelerating progress in radiation research: developing a national network in radiobiology and radiation oncology – Cancer Research UK RadNet

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by Cancer Research UK | Research Feature

8 October 2018

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Person undergoing radiotherapy


In light of recent developments in the field, we commissioned an independent strategic review to ask how we should best support radiobiology and radiation oncology over the next 5-10 years. We’re now announcing new funding for institutions to establish an integrated, national network of centres of excellence in radiation research.

The challenge

Currently around 40% of cancer patients in the UK receive radiotherapy as a part of their treatment, and it is a key component of both curative and palliative care. However, there is strong evidence to suggest that radiotherapy could be more efficacious with greater knowledge of the underlying biology, further refinement of treatment approaches and improved understanding of how to combine radiotherapy with other treatment modalities.

Reflecting on the importance of radiation research to our Research Strategy and ultimately to our organisational ambition of 3 in 4 patients surviving their cancer for 10 years or more by 2034, and recognising that the UK’s radiation research landscape had changed considerably since the last full review of the area, we commissioned an independent Panel led by Professor Patrick Maxwell to determine how we should seek to support radiation research in the future.

Outcomes of the review

The report presents an overall conclusion that radiation research needs to feature more centrally in our future strategy and that moving forward we need to capitalise on the full breadth of scientific and clinical opportunities in the UK. It makes a range of positive recommendations that focus on increasing the funding opportunities for radiation research encouraging a conducive and collaborative environment in the UK to help maximise the potential for impact, including:

  • Developing a coordinated network of Centres of Excellence with cutting-edge facilities and close-partnership with the NHS
  • Ensuring that our funding committees include suitable radiation research expertise and are welcoming of radiation research applications through our response-mode funding schemes
  • Building the UK radiation research community through training, events and collaboration

We have broadly accepted the findings of the report and are now beginning to implement the recommendations.

Building a national radiation research network

We are inviting UK institutions to bid to become one of the Centres of Excellence that will form the new national network – Cancer Research UK RadNet. The Centres of Excellence will grow our core investment in radiation research, supporting discovery and translational research across key scientific and clinical themes. Our vision is that institutions will build on local research strengths, come together to form a national network that delivers research across a broad range of themes and demonstrate a clear ambition to improve patient outcomes.


Optimising our funding support for radiation research

We expect that the national network and associated increased scale of investment will stimulate interest and activity in the field. We anticipate that the core investment in the network will create sustainable capacity and a strong base encouraging and enabling other researchers to apply for funding through competitive routes. To ensure that our funding schemes are capable of, and receptive to, supporting high-quality RB&RO research, we are auditing our Panels and Committees to ensure that members with relevant expertise have a say in our funding decision-making.


Download the full Strategic Report (PDF)