Birmingham cancer researchers set to get £6.7 million cash boost

Birmingham scientists are set to receive a major cash injection from Cancer Research UK.

The charity plans to invest around £4.7 million over the next five years into the Cancer Research UK Birmingham Centre to fund ground-breaking work, as part of the development of a unique chain of cutting-edge research hubs* around the UK.

In addition, a further £2 million investment is planned to continue research at the city’s Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC), as part of a joint initiative from Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health Research.**

The money will boost the region’s stellar collaboration across Birmingham Health Partners, the strategic alliance between the University of Birmingham and three major teaching hospitals; the Shelford Group member University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Birmingham Women’s Hospital.

The extra funding will enable doctors and scientists to work more closely together to help develop new treatments and to make them available to patients through clinical trials as quickly as possible.

This work includes increasing the understanding of how cancers develop to aid the development of new drugs. It will also support the advancement of personalised medicine where treatments are tailored to individual patient's cancers.

Professor Ben Willcox, at the University of Birmingham, said: “We are delighted that Birmingham is part of the Cancer Research UK Centre and ECMC networks. This will enable us to build on Birmingham’s strong fundamental cancer research, excellent clinical resources, and expertise in clinical trials. Our aligned Centre and ECMC will transform our ability to develop new approaches to cancer treatments and focus these on the patients most likely to respond.”

Paula Young, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the West Midlands, said: “These awards are a recognition of the fantastic research taking place in Birmingham which is essential to getting lifesaving treatments to patients.

“One in two of us will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in our lives - so it’s reassuring to know that, thanks to our supporters, Cancer Research UK is able to fund some of the best and most promising research here, in Birmingham.

“Survival has doubled since the early 1970s and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress – but every step our doctors, nurses and scientists take relies on donations from the public and the tireless fundraising of our supporters.”

Birmingham is one of 18 Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres (ECMCs) across the UK. Over the next five years, Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health Research will invest £36 million in the ECMC network which aim to bring better treatments faster to cancer patients in the UK through both the adult and children’s network of Centres.***

Nicola Blackwood, Minister for Public Health and Innovation, said: “We want to lead the world in fighting cancer. The work of Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres is crucial in this fight. This next phase of funding from the National Institute for Health Research will help our world-leading researchers to continue to make new discoveries.

“The collaboration between universities, NHS Trusts and the research community is a key reason these centres are successful, and illustrates why the UK is the best place in the world to be a researcher. I hope this funding will ultimately lead to more life-saving treatments for patients.”

A partnership between the University of Birmingham and the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, the Birmingham ECMC assists in the delivery of early phase cancer studies across the Network of UK sites to enable faster and more personalised treatment.

Scientists at the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit in Birmingham are currently testing new drugs for lung cancer patients as part of the national Lung Matrix Trial, one of the largest and most ambitious studies of its kind in the world. The trial, which recruits patients through the ECMC network, aims to target the right therapy to the right patient group based on the molecular characteristics of each patient’s tumour.

Professor Gary Middleton, from the University of Birmingham, who is leading the trial, said: “We are really encouraged by the progress of the National Lung Matrix Trial. We have recruited over 100 patients to this crucial study, matching the genetic faults in the tumours of lung cancer patients to appropriate drugs to target these faults. This is one of the largest and most ambitious stratified medicine studies in the world, which we hope will change the outcome for some of our patients with this devastating disease. We hope to present the first data next year.”

Dr John Williams, Managing Director of Birmingham Health Partners, said: “I am delighted that Birmingham Health Partners continue to benefit from significant support from Cancer Research UK and National Institute for Health Research. The current announcement reflects the crucial contributions that our people and infrastructure have made to an innovative research and translational environment that leads to improved outcomes for cancer patients and their families.”

ENDS

For more information, please contact Luke Harrison, Media Relations Manager, University of Birmingham on +44 (0)121 414 5134.

For media enquiries to Cancer Research UK, contact Paula Young or Jane Redman in the regional press team on 07786 510438 (Mon-Thu) or 07918 650670 (Tue-Fri)

Notes to editor:

*The Cancer Research UK Centres are: Cancer Research UK Barts Centre; Cancer Research UK Birmingham Centre; Cancer Research UK Cambridge Major Centre; Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre; Cancer Research UK Glasgow Centre; Cancer Research UK Imperial Centre; Cancer Research UK ICR Centre; Cancer Research UK KHP Centre; Cancer Research UK Manchester Major Centre; Cancer Research UK Newcastle Centre; Cancer Research UK Oxford Centre; Cancer Research UK Southampton Centre; Cancer Research UK UCL Centre.

** The ECMCs are: Barts ECMC; Belfast ECMC; Birmingham ECMC; Cambridge ECMC; Cardiff ECMC; Edinburgh ECMC; Glasgow ECMC; ICR ECMC; Imperial ECMC; KHP ECMC; Leicester ECMC; Liverpool ECMC; Manchester ECMC; Newcastle ECMC; Oxford ECMC; Sheffield ECMC; Southampton ECMC; UCL ECMC; and a Paediatric ECMC network.

*** The paediatric ECMC network focuses on rare children’s cancers and early phase trials that bring new treatments to children. The network is also advancing research in immunotherapy, precision medicine, and collecting crucial samples for research into children’s cancers in the future.

About the science at the ECMCs:

The adult and paediatric ECMC Networks support some of the best clinical science in experimental therapeutics at the forefront of cancer research in the UK.  ECMCs are a partnership between a university and at least one NHS Trust/Board which act as an efficient and effective hub to assist in the delivery of early phase cancer studies across the Network of UK sites to enable faster and more personalised patient benefit.

The ECMC Initiative was launched in 2007 as a partnership between CRUK and the DHs collectively. 1,500 new early phase trials over ten years in 35 cancer types were reported within the Network, providing access to innovative treatments to 18,000 patients. In addition, ECMCs have been able to leverage over £155 million from industry towards clinical trials and pre-clinical research in experimental medicine.