University of Birmingham set to receive £11m for pioneering cancer research

Scientists at the University of Birmingham are set to receive a major cash boost for pioneering research into cancer

Scientists at the University of Birmingham are set to receive a major cash boost for pioneering research into cancer.

Cancer Research UK is planning to invest nearly £11m over the next five years in ground-breaking work being carried out by the University of Birmingham-based Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit (CRCTU)*.

The grant will allow doctors and scientists to continue researching and testing better and kinder treatments for patients.

The Birmingham CRCTU gives both adults and children with cancer access to innovative treatments and enables them to benefit from the latest discoveries. It has an expert team of over 200 cancer researchers working across a wide range of cancers, including breast, lung, skin, sarcoma, blood cancers and head and neck cancers as well as a unique team for childhood cancer trials.

The Children’s Cancer Trials Team is the only one of its kind in the UK, putting Birmingham at the forefront of childhood cancer research. The team coordinates ground-breaking clinical trials across the UK and internationally.**
Every year, around 31,300 people are diagnosed with cancer in the West Midlands***

Cancer Research UK’s CTUs specialise in the design, delivery and analysis of trials that bring the latest scientific developments to patients all over the UK. They are a vital part of the charity’s research network, helping shape the clinical research landscape in the UK and internationally.

Professor Pamela Kearns, director of the University of Birmingham-based CRCTU unit and Cancer Research UK’s children’s cancer expert, said: “We are very proud that Birmingham has been awarded this important funding. Our clinical research enables us to translate discoveries from the lab and accelerate the improvement of cancer treatments, giving more patients the best chance of beating their disease.

“As a paediatric oncologist, I am particularly pleased this funding will allow us to continue to build on our programme of clinical trials to improve the care of children with cancer. For example, within my team, with support from Cancer Research UK, we run the International BEACON** trial, testing new combinations of therapies for children and young people with a type of childhood cancer called neuroblastoma, at a stage where they have failed to respond well to standard treatments.

“One question this trial is trying to answer is whether a drug called bevacizumab can help treat their neuroblastoma. Bevacizumab is a type of biological therapy called a monoclonal antibody that targets the tumour’s blood supply. Doctors already treat adult cancers with this drug and we want to see if it works for children with neuroblastoma.”

The latest funding announcement follows a major review by the charity of all its Cancer Research UK CTUs. This has resulted in £45million being invested into eight units across the UK, one of the charity’s largest investments in clinical research to date. The review was conducted by an international panel of experts and the competition was fierce.

Jane Redman, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Birmingham, said: “This crucial investment recognises the fantastic research taking place in Birmingham. It ensures researchers can take full advantage of our most promising scientific discoveries and translate them into new tests and treatments for 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, to help more people survive.

“There are so many ways to support Cancer Research UK’s lifesaving work, from signing up to Walk All Over Cancer in March to entering one of the many Race for Life events in the West Midlands; or giving time to volunteer in our shops.

“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.”

Ends

For press enquiries please contact:

  1. Emma McKinney, Communications Manager (Health Sciences), University of Birmingham, tel: +44 (0) 121 414 6681 or email: e.j.mckinney@bham.ac.uk. For out of hours contact the press office on +44 (0) 7789 921 165.
  2.  Jane Redman on 07918 650670 or Paula Young at CRUK on 07786 510438.

Notes to Editors

  • To watch Professor Pam Kearns talking about the importance of clinical trials click here 
  • Case Study:

Isabella Lyttle, aged 10, from Walsall in the West Midlands, was diagnosed with a type of childhood cancer called neuroblastoma in 2010. Her treatment with chemotherapy and radiotherapy initially seemed to be successful but unfortunately she subsequently relapsed three times and needed further treatment, including immunotherapy.

Isabella is still bravely battling her cancer and has now taken part in eight clinical trials, each with a degree of success. Her parents, Mark Lyttle and Jennie Dalton, are currently raising money to send their daughter to the USA to undergo a new type of immunotherapy not available in the UK.

The indomitable youngster, who has even written a fundraising children’s book while in hospital, is also about to embark on her ninth UK clinical trial in Southampton.

Mum Jennie Dalton said: “It is thanks to clinical trials that Isabella is still here, fighting her cancer and full of hope for the future. We feel really fortunate to have been offered the chance to try new ground-breaking treatments and benefit from the very latest in medical research.

“It is fantastic that the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit based at the University of Birmingham has received this £11m grant to continue their amazing and vital work. I hope that many more patients like Isabella will get to lead full and healthy lives because of these improvements in treatment.”

  • The Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit (CRCTU), based at the University of Birmingham, is one of the largest cancer trials units in the UK and specialises in the design, conduct and analysis of phase I to III cancer clinical trials. The CRCTU is UKCRC registered and is a member of the NCRI Cancer CTU Group. It gives both adults and children with cancer access to innovative treatments and enables them to benefit from the latest discoveries. It has an expert team of over 200 researchers working across a wide range of cancers in adults, including breast, lung, skin, sarcoma, blood cancers and head and neck cancers. Its Children’s Cancer Trials Team is the only one of its kind in the UK, putting Birmingham at the forefront of childhood cancer research and today’s announcement comes as the world marks International Childhood Cancer Day. The team coordinates ground-breaking clinical trials across the UK and internationally, as well as regionally through Birmingham Health Partners (BHP) - a strategic alliance between the University of Birmingham, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 5,000 international students from over 150 countries.
  • About the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Units:

*Unit status is awarded to locations performing the highest quality clinical trials research, and the investment supports essential infrastructure and running costs as well as technical staff, equipment and training.

**The Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials unit in Birmingham coordinates ground-breaking clinical trials across the UK and internationally, as well as regionally through Birmingham Health Partners (BHP) - a strategic alliance between the University of Birmingham, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.

Cancer Research UK funds eight clinical trials units:
1. Cardiff University: Wales Cancer Trials Unit
2. The Institute of Cancer Research: Clinical Trials and Statistics Unit
3. Queen Mary, University of London: Cancer Prevention and Trials Unit
4. University College London: CRUK and UCL Cancer Trials Centre
5. University of Birmingham: CRUK Clinical Trials Unit
6. University of Glasgow: CRUK Clinical Trials Unit at the Glasgow Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre
7. University of Southampton: Southampton Clinical Trials Unit
8. University of Leeds: Leeds Clinical Trials Unit

***All cancers (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) annual average 2012-2014 in the West Midlands Region.

Source: These data were extracted from the Cancer Analysis System, snapshot CAS1507. Accessed 28/10/2015

  • About Cancer Research UK:
  1. Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.
  2. Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.
  3. Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on vital donations from the public.
  4. Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last 40 years.
  5. Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, 3 in 4 people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years.
  6. Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
  7. Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.
  8. For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022