Cancer Research U.K. will invest over $161.9 million across 15 research centers to help new treatments and diagnostics reach cancer patients more quickly. The investment marks the latest phase in the development of the Cancer Research U.K. Centers network of excellence, a unique chain of research hubs that has been established across the country.
This initiative brings together researchers and support from local universities, the NHS and Cancer Research U.K. Each center will focus on specific areas of research and will aim to raise standards of care and forge links with local communities. Collaboration is key to the success of the centers network—they will enable researchers who do not normally work together to exchange ideas and information more easily.
A core part of the network’s role will involve training the next generation of cancer researchers. Nearly 200 Ph.D.s will be funded through the network, including around 80 Ph.D.s specifically for cancer clinicians. This is the largest cancer-focused cohort of clinical Ph.D.s in the E.U.
The investment follows an extensive process to choose the centers with the most exciting potential to deliver advances in cancer research to benefit patients. In total, 21 locations applied to be part of the network of excellence.
“The clinical Ph.D.s are especially important; making sure clinicians have the opportunity to do research as part of their role opens up many opportunities for discovery and innovation in tackling the biggest challenges in cancer research. We also know there is a shortage of clinician scientists, so this will greatly help,” said professor Margaret Frame, science director of the Edinburgh Cancer Research U.K. Center and member of the CRUK Training and Career Development Board.
“But it’s also incredibly important for us to train the next generation of cancer researchers,” she said. “The pace of discovery is such that we must ensure we’re offering the brightest scientists the opportunity to be part of a very exciting time in the field of cancer research.”
Professor Sir Bruce Ponder, director of the Cambridge Cancer Research U.K. Center, said, “The network is giving us unprecedented opportunities to work effectively across the local hospital and university environment, while also opening up broader avenues for us to work with scientists in other Cancer Research U.K. centers around the country. This new funding will also help forge collaborations with other scientific fields that can help cancer research—in today’s fight against cancer we are pulling in support from many areas—physics, engineering, math and many others that can help us have a real impact,” he said. “All of this is especially important when working on rarer cancers or those cancers that are harder to detect and treat. For us, that means more opportunities to collaborate on pancreatic, oesophageal and lung cancers. And that means a better chance of making a discovery that could lead to a new treatment in those cancers.”
Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research U.K., said, "Funding these centers of excellence is one of the charity's priorities and will enable us to work toward the goals we have set to improve the treatment and survival of cancer patients. We must make sure we have the infrastructure to enable and push the boundaries in translational research. It’s an area that doesn’t get enough support or funding, but it’s a core part of what we must do. Get the discoveries out of the lab and to the patient’s bedside. We also have unprecedented opportunities to learn lessons from how individual patients respond to treatments. This can help us better target treatments to patients who will benefit most, but also help to develop new treatments for those who will not.
“None of that is possible without the generous donations we receive from the public. It is an incredible story of collaboration—the public, cancer patients, scientists, the NHS, universities and Cancer Research U.K.—all working together to translate new discoveries into better ways to understand and beat cancer,” said Kumar.