Our work continues

The Royal Marsden and the ICR have retained NIHR Biomedical Research Centre status for another five years, receiving funding of £43 million that will be shared among eight new research themes

Professor David Cunningham, Director of the NIHR BRC, says: “Our responsibility to cancer patients and their families does not end with the delivery of excellent research, or even with the development of new treatments. We will ensure that effective new treatments, technologies and strategies for prevention are adopted into routine healthcare by building an evidence base to support this.

“We aim to increase cure rates and to improve survival with smarter, kinder treatments that significantly reduce immediate and long-term side effects and allow patients to live well with and beyond cancer.”

Between now and 2021, our BRC will share the NIHR funding of £43 million between six individual research themes, plus two ‘cross-cutting’ themes, in order to continue our pioneering research into diagnosis, treatment and prevention, and its translation into patient benefits.

£43m

shared between six individual research themes at the BRC, plus two ‘cross-cutting’ themes

Novel cancer therapeutics

One in two people will develop cancer at some point in their lives, and each year more than 160,000 patients die from the disease. There is an urgent need to develop novel cancer treatments – and this theme, led by Professor Johann de Bono, aims to do so while reducing treatment failure and improving patient outcomes.

Professor de Bono says: “We will build on existing strengths in drug discovery to deliver 40% more candidate drugs between 2016 and 2021, develop innovative approaches to meet the challenges of cancer evolution, tumour heterogeneity and drug resistance, and exploit recent advances in immunotherapy for cancer.”

Novel cancer therapeutics theme lead Professor Johann de Bono: "We will develop innovative approaches to meet the challenges of cancer evolution"

Gastrointestinal cancers

Upper gastrointestinal (GI) cancers have some of the poorest survival rates of all solid cancers. We will carry out research into cancers of the upper GI tract (oesophagus, stomach, pancreas and biliary system), as well as of the lower GI tract (colon and rectum). Our research will also include preventing and managing the adverse GI side effects of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

Professor David Cunningham, theme lead, says: “We aim to improve cure rates, prevent overtreatment and complications and provide evidence for the economic delivery of precision medicine to GI cancer patients at The Royal Marsden, throughout the UK and beyond.”

"We aim to improve cure rates, prevent overtreatment and complications and provide evidence for the economic delivery of precision medicine to GI cancer patients"

Targeted physical therapies

We will use advanced imaging technologies to guide more effective treatments and improve outcomes for patients.

These targeted physical therapies – including radiotherapy, surgery and high-intensity focused ultrasound – will be better able to eradicate primary tumours and lymph node metastases while reducing the damage to surrounding healthy tissue.

Theme lead Professor Kevin Harrington says: “Research at the ICR and The Royal Marsden led to the development of conformal radiotherapy and intensity-modulated radiotherapy, and we have a strong track record of translating innovations in radiotherapy into early- and late-phase clinical trials for patient benefit.

“We will draw on this experience to develop three major new treatment platforms: stereotactic ablative radiotherapy; the UK’s first MR Linac, an MRI-guided linear accelerator; and proton beam therapy.”

Targeted physical therapies theme lead Professor Kevin Harrington: "We have a strong track record of translating innovation in radiotherapy into early- and late-phase clinical trials for patient benefit"

Digital

This theme on digital capability, informatics, big data and  e-health will provide a world-class digital toolkit and technical expertise to enable integrative research across all BRC research themes.

This will help us to evaluate and guide the development of novel diagnostic procedures and treatments, to integrate data from all sources in patient-centred way and to support patients in daily life.

Professor Winette van der Graaf, theme lead, says: “The goal is to enable treatments tailored to individual patients, provided at the right time and place. We believe this can only be achieved through rapidly accessing all relevant data for a patient and using smart analysis tools to support clinical decision making.”

Digital theme lead Professor Winette van de Graaf: "The goal is to enable treatments tailored to individual patients, provided at the right time and place"

Genotypes, phenotypes and cancer evolution

This theme will support the BRC research themes by innovating in molecular diagnostics and analytic techniques, including in blood-based biomarkers and the monitoring of residual disease – interweaving the principles of adaptive tumour responses and cancer evolution into all our research.

Theme lead Dr Nicholas Turner says: “The overall aim is to improve patient outcomes through precisely defining when, who and how to treat.”

Genotypes, phenotypes and cancer evolution lead Dr Nicholas Turner: "The overall aim is to improve patient outcomes"

Uncommon cancers

Together, breast, prostate, bowel and lung cancers account for more than half of all new cases of cancer in the UK, making them the most common types. However, there are more than 200 further types that occur less frequently and can be termed as ‘uncommon’.

This theme will investigate bladder, testis, head and neck, and kidney cancers, lymphoma, sarcoma, melanoma, gynaecological malignancies, and cancers of childhood and adolescence.

Dr James Larkin, theme lead, says: “Apart from their rarity, these tumour types share many features, including a propensity to affect young people disproportionately. We will translate our improved biological understanding into improved diagnosis, treatment and outcomes.” 

Uncommon cancers theme lead Dr James Larkin: "We will translate our improved biological understanding into improved diagnosis, treatment and outcomes"

Prostate cancer

With 130 cases diagnosed every day, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men in the UK. This theme will improve treatment selection for patients and improve outcomes using advances in molecular diagnostics and treatment options for localised and metastatic disease.

Theme lead Professor Ros Eeles says: “One of our aims is to take forward germline genetic variants associated with prostate cancer into translational screening studies in the general population, and in men with an increased risk of developing the disease. This will help address whether targeted screening will improve detection and reduce overdiagnosis and comorbidity.” 

Prostate cancer theme lead Professor Ros Eeles, whose work will improve treatment selection for patients

Breast cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with almost twice the number of cases in 2012 as in 1988 – but improved therapies and earlier detection have nearly halved mortality. This theme aims to capitalise on this progress by identifying new approaches to predicting individual patient outcomes and discovering new targeted treatments.

Professor Mitch Dowsett, theme lead, says: “Metastatic breast cancer is still considered incurable, but new therapies have led to major extensions in survival, meaning many women are now living with the disease rather than dying of it. We aim to reduce the number of patients who relapse with metastatic disease, and to improve the outlook for those who do relapse by giving the right drug to the right patient at the right time.”

"We aim to reduce the number of patients who relapse with metastatic disease"

A decade of BRC funding

2006 The Royal Marsden and the ICR jointly gain BRC status

2007 The first clinical trial of intensity-modulated radiotherapy is conducted

2008 Professor Ros Eeles finds a link between family history and prostate cancer

2009 POETIC, the world’s largest trial into breast cancer, begins

2010 The Royal Marsden and the ICR lead on a trial to test if hyperbaric oxygen therapy helps with the side effects of radiotherapy to the pelvis

2011 Abiraterone – discovered at the ICR and trialled at The Royal Marsden – is licensed in Europe

2012 The HeartSpare trial aims to reduce the side effects of radiation to the heart in breast cancer patients

2013 The Mainstreaming Cancer Genetics Programme is initiated

2014 Olaparib is approved in Europe for ovarian cancer patients with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations

2015 Viral immunotherapy T-VEC is approved in Europe for use in adults with advanced melanoma

2016 A clinical trial finds that radiotherapy given in fewer, higher doses can spare patients hospital appointments and save the NHS money