About us


Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit (CRCTU) has a mission to translate cutting edge science and research into improved patient care, from small data-intensive Phase I trials of novel therapies through to large multi-centred international randomised trials.

BIRMINGHAM Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit logo



Globally renowned for our academic excellence, Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit (CRCTU) collaborates with clinician investigators driving cutting-edge research, with a focus on treatments that will change outcomes for people with cancer. Our trials play a large part in influencing new medical practice, improving patient care and reducing treatment side effects, and we are proud to be one of only eight clinical trials units funded by Cancer Research UK.

CRCTU supports and enables innovative research with the potential to change lives

cancer-cells-October-2022-1Whether working at a national or international level, CRCTU specialises in the design and delivery of every aspect of clinical trials of all phases in adults and children, from concept to publication. Common to all the research ideas we collaborate on is that they have the practical power to lead to better treatment and outcomes; they are never for the sake of pure academic research.

For instance, we are working on trials that support precision medicine based on the biology rather than the name of a disease, leading to treatments that are tailored to a tumour’s molecular fingerprint. We are also proud to be running both the National Lung Matrix and the Tessa Jowell Brain Matrix clinical trials. The National Lung Matrix trial is the largest precision medicine trial in non-small cell lung cancer globally, testing a wide-range of therapies tailored specifically to target key genetic changes in cancer cells. Tessa Jowell Brain Matrix trials will enable brain tumours to be treated with more targeted drugs for better outcomes.

Our key specialism lies in innovative design to deliver efficient trials that maximise what can be achieved from a single study or a small number of patients. We also aim to integrate laboratory-based biological studies within our trials.

CRCTU is proud to be one of eight clinical trials units funded by Cancer Research Ubut also receives funding from a number of other charities (including Blood Cancer UK and The Brain Tumour Charity) and government funding bodies such as the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR). The Trials Unit also works in collaboration with a large number of industry partners to deliver individual trials.

We are Cancer Research UK's dedicated clinical trials unit for children's cancers

child with drip and bandageCRCTU is responsible for the majority of academic childhood cancer trials in the UK and therefore plays a crucial role in improving clinical practice in this field. But it is important to say that we aim for age-agnostic trials whenever appropriate; recruitment based on widening access to innovation and not restricted by age.


We also use our academic excellence to support research beyond cancer

nurse with pulseoximeterIn collaboration with several initiatives, we are bringing the benefits of our world-leading trials expertise to number of non-cancer fields. In particular, we are working on the design and delivery of devices and surgical trials, and in several medical specialties including inflammatory and liver diseases.

Additional funders and focuses

CRCTU is funded by a number of charities, including Blood Cancer UK and The Brain Tumour Charity, and government funding bodies such as the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR). We work in collaboration with a large number of industry partners to deliver individual trials.

The Unit was one of the first UKCRN registered trials units and is a member of the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Clinical Trials Unit Group. We are the co-ordinating hub for the national Trials Acceleration Programme (TAP)  and the IMPACT programme.

The Unit also designs and delivers trials for a number of Birmingham Health Partner initiatives including: the Birmingham Experimental Cancer Centre (ECMC).

In collaboration with its sister clinical trials unit Birmingham Clinical Trials Unit (BCTU) the CRCTU is also a member of the Birmingham Surgical Trials Consortium (BiSTC) which specialises in the design and delivery of surgical trials.

Beyond cancer, the CRCTU is collaborating in several initiatives, bringing its expertise to diseases beyond cancer. These initiatives include the NIHR Birmingham Biomedical Research Centre (NIHR-BRC); the Arthritis Therapy Acceleration Program (A-TAP); Midlands & Wales Advanced Therapy Treatment Centre (MW – ATTC); and the Surgical Reconstruction and Microbiology Research Centre – NIHR (SRMRC).

With more than 100 peer reviewed publications coming from the Unit in the last 5 years we hope we are “Making a Difference” to the healthcare of patients worldwide.

Therapeutic areas and expertise

We apply our expertise to the design, conduct and analysis of Phase I, II and III cancer clinical trials for nation-wide and international investigators in a diverse range of therapeutic areas, which include:

migrating cancer cells


  • Brain and central nervous system
  • Childhood cancers
  • Colorectal (bowel) cancer
  • Haematological (blood) cancers
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Hepatobiliary (liver and biliary tract) cancers
  • Lung cancer
  • Urological (bladder, prostate) cancer
  • Sarcoma (bone or soft tissue cancer)


pipettes in trays


  • Cardiology (heart)
  • Inflammatory disease (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease etc)
  • Neurology and regenerative medicine
  • Rare diseases
  • Trauma (injury)
  • Surgery/devices


scientist in lab

The CRCTU has expertise in running trials of many different types including:

  • Investigational medicinal products (drug trials), including first in man studies
  • Surgery trials
  • Medical devices trials
  • Advanced (cellular) therapy trials
  • Radiotherapy trials
  • Biomarkers trials 

Specialist methodology

CRCTU couples its leading expertise in clinical trials methodology with world-class scientific and clinical expertise to deliver state of the art clinical trials. Notably, for stratified and personalised medicine through pioneering innovation in trial methodology and operational delivery of these complex trials.

CRCTU has made major advances in the development of academic expertise in trial designs that tackle the need for efficiency and novel read outs when addressing research questions for small patient populations. Addressing the methodological challenges of small patient numbers is core to the delivery of trials for childhood cancers, which all meet the definition of rare diseases. CRCTU has gained extensive trial methodology expertise in the adaptive and Bayesian design arena and crucially has translated theory into implementation in several trials, for example; efficient dose finding designs.

Specific areas of expertise include:

  • Platform trials
  • Bayesian design
  • Continued Reassessment Method (CRM) and more conventional phase I designs
  • Phase II methodology
  • Randomised controlled trials including blinded designs
  • Multi-arm Multi Stage (MAMS) design
  • Biomarker stratified designs
  • Quality of Life analysis
  • Translational sample analysis