Key areas of focus

• Early Detection of Cancer
• Advanced Cancer Imaging
• Drug Development and Clinical Trials
• Longitudinal Mapping of Treatment Response and Cancer Heterogeneity

Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute

Five of the top 10 causes of disease-related death in the UK are cancers, imparting significant disease and financial burdens that will increase dramatically over the next 15 years. Therefore, the overarching goal of the Cancer theme is to reduce the morbidity and mortality of patients with cancer by translating the wealth of biomedical research in Cambridge and beyond into better ways to diagnose and treat cancer. Cambridge BRC funding underpins the infrastructure and resources needed to break down the barriers between the laboratory and the clinic, enabling patients to benefit from the latest innovations in cancer science.

The Cancer Theme is based within the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre (CRUK) – one of only two Cancer Research UK Major Centres. The CRUK Cambridge Centre, which is a partnership between the University of Cambridge, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Cancer Research UK, brings together a dynamic collaboration of academic researchers, healthcare professionals, and the pharmaceutical and biotech industries based in the Cambridge area.

To maximise translational opportunities, the Centre comprises 12 discipline-focused programmes populated by laboratory scientists and clinicians. Our strategy is to invest Cambridge BRC resources to leverage Cambridge University collaboration and innovation in physics, engineering, chemistry and the biomedical sciences to advance novel diagnostics and treatments of cancer.

We are adopting a proactive approach that is changing the way we treat cancer: moving from a system that waits for primary or recurrent cancers to present, to a strategy that detects, monitors and treats cancer early.

(a) Treating cancer early with appropriate intensity: The development of early diagnostics and personalised cancer medicine holds promise to reduce both the disease and financial burdens caused by cancer. For example, it is estimated that once implemented, the CytospongeTM screen for Barrett’s oesophagus will markedly reduce morbidity and mortality by treating patients before they develop oesophageal cancer. Further, by matching disease biology with appropriate treatments, our clinical trials will enable the development of highly effective but less intense chemotherapies.

(b) Determining and disseminating best practice guidelines: Our strategy will not only identify optimal therapies but also disseminate these discoveries as best practice guidelines across healthcare delivery networks.  The IMPORT High and other trials led by the Cancer Theme have set practice guidelines for breast radiotherapy across the UK and in particular have enabled other UK centres to safely integrate advanced radiotherapy techniques as a standard of care.  Our strategy will also evaluate the health related quality of life (HRQL) benefits for patients with the most aggressive and difficult to treat cancers; for example demonstrating the cost-effective HRQL gain for patients with refractory oesophagogastric adenocarcinoma.

(c) Translating basic cancer research into new therapies and diagnostics: As well as optimising the use of existing treatments, our strategy will translate laboratory research in the biomedical and physical sciences into new diagnostics and therapies.  We will continue this legacy of translating Cancer Centre-led laboratory research into patient benefit.  For example, pivotal laboratory research that identified Bromodomain and Extra Terminal (BET) proteins as drug targets in leukaemia and other cancers have led to large Phase I trials of this treatment (GSK525762) in collaboration with GSK. Similarly, basic laboratory research of pancreatic cancer has led directly to randomised Phase II trials that are testing if nab-paclitaxel or vandetanib improve the survival of patients with this cancer.

We will work closely with the other Cambridge BRC Research themes, most notably Integrative Genomics and Women’s Health and Paediatrics (on paediatric cancer), and cross-cutting research themes.

Our programmes 

Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute

Our members are organised into 12 Programmes that comprise the ‘engines’ of our research. Working together across multiple academic, hospital and private sector settings in the wider Cambridge area, our Programmes design and drive mission-centric cancer research:

  • Discovering new ways to diagnose, monitor and treat the most common and hard to treat cancers through the *Aerodigestive, *Neurobiology and Brain, Breast, Haematological, Ovarian, *Paediatric, *Pancreatic and Urological Cancer Programmes (*CRUK-designated cancers of unmet need).
  • Making fundamental discoveries in cancer biology and inventing new diagnostic and treatment approaches through our Advanced Cancer Imaging, Cell and Molecular Biology, Early Cancer Detection and Onco-Innovation Programmes.  The Onco-Innovation Programme includes professionals from the CRUK Medimmune Alliance and AstraZeneca; uniting pharmaceutical partners and academics to develop new cancer treatments.
  • Engaging our entire membership through our Executive Board that comprises two representatives from each Programme (typically one clinical and one laboratory-based), facilitating communication between the Centre leadership and membership, and ensuring a unified approach to achieving our mission.