Major funding for Cambridge will help find new cancer treatments

Clinicians and scientists in Cambridge have today (23 January 2023) welcomed news that the search for new cancer treatments in the city is to receive a major funding investment of around £3 million, providing future hope for people diagnosed with the disease.

Cambridge’s Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) will receive the cash injection over the next five years to help doctors and scientists find the cancer interventions of the future for both adults and children.

The funding has been made possible by a partnership between Cancer Research UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and the Little Princess Trust specifically for children’s cancers.

Cambridge is part of a network of 17 ECMCs across the UK, funded by Cancer Research UK, that deliver clinical trials of promising new treatments and work in conjunction with local NHS facilities to provide access to cutting-edge cancer treatments. Testing these treatments helps to establish new ways of detecting and monitoring the disease, and to evaluate how it responds to the treatment.

Since 2012, Cambridge’s ECMC has contributed to the diagnosis and treatment of thousands of people with cancer or at risk of developing cancer in over 230 clinical trials conducted at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and supported by the NIHR Cambridge BRC.

The funding will allow new, experimental treatments – including immunotherapies – for a wide variety of cancers to be developed as well as improve existing treatments.

Cambridge ECMC lead Dr Bristi Basu said: “We are delighted that Cambridge has secured this funding.

“It clearly demonstrates recognition of our research excellence in experimental cancer medicine and is a credit to all our research teams working in alliance with our patient and public involvement group, and our academic and industrial partners.

“Clinical trials are crucial to new and improved treatments becoming adopted as standard treatments by the NHS, and this funding will allow us to advance how we can diagnose and treat cancer effectively.

“Over the next five years, we’ll continue to champion experimental medicine studies for patient benefit, across the spectrum of early to advanced disease, supporting translation of basic research to patient-facing trials, so impacting people with cancer in Cambridge and beyond.

“The new Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital opening in 2026/27 will enable even greater ambition in our plans.”

One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer within our lifetimes*, so finding new effective treatments is vital.

Cancer Research UK has been integral in aiding the discovery of many new cancer treatments such as the drug tamoxifen, for which Cancer Research UK funded phase four clinical trials to validate it as an effective treatment for breast cancer.

Tamoxifen is now a mainstay treatment for people with oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer and appears on the World Health Organisation’s list of essential drugs for the disease.

As a result of tamoxifen, nearly two thirds of people diagnosed with breast cancer this decade are predicted to survive their disease for 20 years or more.

Executive Director of Research and Innovation for Cancer Research UK, Dr Iain Foulkes, said: “We are proud to be supporting an expansion of our successful ECMC network, bringing together vast medical and scientific expertise to translate the latest scientific discoveries from the lab into the clinic.

“The ECMC network is delivering the cancer treatments of the future, bringing new hope to people affected by cancer. The trials taking place today will give the next generation the best possible chance of beating cancer.

“The adult and paediatric ECMC networks will offer clinical trials for many different types of cancer. Researchers will be working to find new treatments and tackle the unique challenges presented by cancers in children and young people. Working with our partners, this new funding will bring hope for more effective, personalised therapies for everyone affected by cancer.”

Chief Executive of the NIHR, Professor Lucy Chappell, said: “The ECMC network is a vital strategic investment in the UK’s cancer research community, bringing together top scientists and clinicians to tackle some of the biggest scientific challenges in cancer and improve outcomes for patients.

“Through this route, we enable more people to join trials that could help them. The ECMC network will give access to brand new experimental treatments for patients, including children and young people, paving the way for these treatments to be used in the clinic one day. This is a crucial part of NIHR’s work and enables more people to join trials that might help them. We are proud to be partnering with Cancer Research UK and the Little Princess Trust in funding this network.

“The UK has considerable strengths in cancer research. We will continue to back life-saving research for the thousands of adult and children patients affected by cancer every year.”

Minister of State for Health, Helen Whately, said: “A cancer diagnosis can be devastating, but the earlier the diagnosis, the better the chance to treat it and beat it. We are already picking up more cancers early by screening, but we can do even better.

“This partnership between Cancer Research UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Research and the Little Princess Trust will fund innovative trials that could lead to new life-saving treatments.

“Every life lost to cancer is devastating and I’m pleased that across the country people will be given renewed hope – especially children and young people – that we can beat this awful disease.”

Blood sample being placed in centrifuge
Discover more about the NIHR Cambridge BRC

Contact us by phone, email or web for more information.

Events Calendar

Listing relevant events and training sessions for researchers and members of the public.