The Birmingham Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre

ecmc_logo_strapline_RGB-01Jointly funded by Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the Birmingham Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) was originally established in 2007 and renewed in 2017 until 2022.

About us

The Birmingham ECMC, led by Director Professor Dion Morton, is part of the UK wide ECMC Network seeking to accelerate the translation of discovery science into the clinic by promoting rational development and application of novel therapies, providing clinical networks for their evaluation, and supplying linked patient data and samples for future research.

We are striving to secure a position as a strategic centre, driving major improvements in patient outcomes by building upon our strengths in stratified medicine and immuno-oncology, and leveraging our integrated biomedical campus and large population.

The National Lung Matrix Trial, the largest precision medicine trial in non-small cell lung cancer globally, would not be possible without the expertise and infrastructure offered by the ECMC network. This highly complex, pioneering trial is led by Professor Gary Middleton, Deputy Director of the Birmingham ECMC.

Our vision

The Birmingham ECMC and Cancer Research UK Birmingham Centre together provide the infrastructure and governance to align and integrate our academic and clinical resources, accelerating the translational outputs of three complementary research strengths, namely in  immunologygenomics and virology.

Focusing predominantly on established clinical strengths in colorectal cancer, head and neck cancer, lung cancer, and haematological malignancies (key contacts for clinical groupings listed in key themes below), the Birmingham ECMC drives forward the translation of fundamental research.  

Our principal focus is on innovatively-designed Phase 1/2 trials, recruiting stratified patient cohorts, seeking robust therapeutic signals capable of transforming patient outcomes, and also integration with optimised surgical approaches. This synergises with Cancer Research UK’s Clinical Trials Unit (CRCTU’s) expertise and strategic aims, including efficient trial design, such as adaptive/multi-arm/multi-stage and novel window-of-opportunity studies.

We are strategically linked with the West Midlands Regional Genetics Laboratory which is one of CRUK's Technology Hubs in Stratified Medicine Programme and of strategic importance in the context of linking translation to potential delivery with respect to genetic biomarkers.

Governance

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The Birmingham ECMC is managed under the umbrella of Birmingham Health Partners, which unites the University of Birmingham with key local clinical partners. Top-level oversight is provided by the Cancer Strategy Group, which has representation from all key partners.

Decisions are taken by the ECMC Management Group, chaired by the Centre’s Director Professor Dion Morton with support from the Deputy Director Professor Gary Middleton

cruk-birmingham-logoThere is close alignment with the Cancer Research UK Birmingham Centre management, with reciprocal involvement of ECMC and Centre Directors and theme leads in respective management structures, ensuring coordinated planning of fundamental and translational cancer research programmes.

Key themes

Pre-cancer (Dr Andrew Beggs)

  • This new and expanding field of cancer care is a key theme for our ECMC. The UK Therapeutic Cancer Prevention Network, UKTCPN (established by Birmingham/Leicester) exploits the full range of expertise across the ECMCs for the benefit of these patients.
  • Reducing harm from overtreatment is a priority for this ‘well patient’ population. Prophylactic surgery is already being employed through mastectomy, colectomy and oesophagectomy. There is a need to develop medical therapies and improved diagnostic tools, that when combined can reduce the burden of treatment.
  • A number of therapies are emerging including hormone treatment, NSAIDs and metformin. However evaluation in the clinical arena can take up to 20 years, a major disincentive to development. A number of advances are required, including expertise in developing stratifiers, novel trials methodology and multidisciplinary team working available within the national ECMC network.

Early cancer (Dr Paul Nankivell)

  • Earlier diagnosis and treatment have already improved survival for many cancer patients. Further improvements will be realised by reducing the often substantial perioperative morbidity and functional sequelae associated with traditional ‘radical’ surgical techniques. Better outcomes are now sought for patients with early-stage disease through use of multimodality treatment strategies incorporating less radical surgery or even no surgery.
  • This requires complex trials that not only evaluate oncological efficacy, but also explore functional outcomes and quality of life. Special attention must be paid to unexpected adverse effects arising from new treatment combinations. Stratification for treatment response will be critical to the provision of these maximally-effective, minimally-invasive strategies. We aim to rationalise application of the individual components of multimodality treatment to ensure patients do not experience cumulative toxicities.

Advanced cancer (Professor Colin Watts)

  • Birmingham Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) is expanding its portfolio of academic-led early-phase trials, using diverse scientific design methodologies to rapidly and efficiently evaluate novel therapies in advanced cancer.
  • We continue work in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), stem cell transplantation and viral cancers and have grown new translational research teams in lung cancer and head and neck cancer. We are building on trials in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) to invest in a new broader hepatobiliary cancer portfolio.
  • We have recently added brain cancer to our portfolio, following the establishment of the Birmingham Brain Cancer Programme by eminent neurosurgeon Professor Colin Watts.

Contact us

If you would like to find out more about the work of the Birmingham ECMC please contact Bridget Bell or for industry specific enquiries, contact Anne Simper

Key contacts in clinical groupings

Acute Myeloid Leukaemia  Professor Charles Craddock
Barrett’s Oesophagus  Dr Andrew Beggs
Bladder cancer  Mr Prashant Patel
Brain Cancer Professor Colin Watts
Breast Cancer Professor Daniel Rea
Colitis associated dysplasia  Professor Dion Morton
Colorectal cancer  Professor Dion Morton
Head and neck cancer  Dr Paul Nankivell
Hepato-biliary cancer  Professor David Adams
Lung cancer  Professor Gary Middleton
MGUS Dr Guy Pratt
Soft Tissue Sarcoma  Dr Andrew Beggs
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