New and innovative ways to detect and treat cancer being trialled at the University of Birmingham are to receive renewed funding from Cancer Research UK and the NIHR.
The Birmingham Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC), jointly funded by Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health and Care Research in England, provides world-leading expertise in the development of innovative cancer trials. New funding will enable the Birmingham ECMC to continue to conduct the highest quality trials into experimental treatments for cancer over the next five years.
The centre aims to be an integrated translational hub for cancer research in Birmingham and brings together the University of Birmingham’s global expertise in cancer research and strength in clinical trials to deliver accelerated patient benefit regionally, across the ECMC network and globally.
The centre is part of world-leading cancer research infrastructure in Birmingham alongside the Birmingham Cancer Research Clinical Trials Unit (CRCTU) and the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre. The funding enables the University of Birmingham, working closely together with organisations across the Birmingham Health Partners network, to focus on three themes in experimental cancer medicine: Precision Medicine, Cancer Immunotherapy and Biomarker-driven patient stratification.
Gary Middleton, Professor of Medical Oncology and Centre Director for the Birmingham Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre said:
“Thanks to the funding from Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health and Care Research we will be able to continue to design and deliver trials that have the power to make a huge difference to the lives of cancer patients.
“Over the past five years we have already made significant advances in precision medicine for cancer including through the National Lung Matrix trial. With renewed funding we will be able to drive forward the next generation of these studies, offering access to personalised therapies to cancer patients in the West Midlands and across the national ECMC network.”
With renewed funding we will be able to drive forward the next generation of these studies.Gary Middleton, Professor of Medical Oncology and Centre Director for the Birmingham Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre
National Lung Matrix trial
A pioneering lung cancer study, led by the University of Birmingham’s Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit, has highlighted important factors that will need to be considered in the next wave of precision medicine studies particularly in treating genomically complicated cancers.
Using an innovative trial design that incorporates multiple treatment arms, NLMT allows for a more flexible and informed approach than traditional clinical trials. Each arm tests a different targeted treatment matched to a different genetic subtype of NSCLC.
Executive Director of Research and Innovation at 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.
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.”
Building on success
Birmingham is part of a network of 17 ECMCs across the UK, funded by Cancer Research UK and the NIHR, which deliver clinical trials of promising new treatments. Since 2007, when the network was first established, around 30,000 patients have taken part in 2,100 trials.
The funding will allow new, experimental treatments - including immunotherapies - for a wide variety of cancers to be developed, as well as improve existing treatments.
ECMCs 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.
The University of Birmingham is part of a newly announced partnership which is running a multi-drug, precision medicine platform trial for adults and children with rare cancers who have run out of other treatment options.
The DETERMINE trial is one of the largest precision medicine platform trials targeting these populations and it will enrol patients who have an identifiable genetic alteration in their cancer that can be targeted by treatments that are already approved for use in other cancer types.
The trial is aiming to recruit patients with rare adult and paediatric cancers, as well as more common cancers with rare genetic alterations that could be targeted by the drugs being studied in the trial.