Director’s Update – December 2022

Happy new year!


I hope that everyone had a restful holiday break and is excited for another new year of science and activity in Manchester. January has been an eventful month at the Manchester Cancer Research Centre as we welcome new funding from Cancer Research UK to support the Manchester Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre, launch a photography exhibit in the foyer of the OCRB and finally look forward to activities to mark World Cancer Day on the 4th of February.


Major funding to support experimental therapies

Firstly, congratulations to the Manchester Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC; Co-Leads: Profs Natalie Cook and Caroline Dive) which not only passed its quinquennial review, but successfully received up to £3m in further funding over the next five years to find new treatments in adult and paediatric cancers. The national stratified trials DETERMINE and TARGET NATIONAL are led by the ECMC team with strong translational science planned to understand sensitivity and resistance to molecularly targeted drugs.

This investment is critical to identifying new therapies and delivering new clinical trials that benefit patients with cancer, determining which treatments work for which tumours at the right dose. In particular, the Manchester ECMC will be investigating new clinical immunotherapies and how to translate new cancer biomarker discoveries into the clinic.

Manchester remains an integral part of the 17-member strong ECMC network and we look forward to seeing further collaborations and discoveries that can improve the outcomes for patients with cancer.


Diving Deep into Cancer Team Science

On 24th January, I chaired the second Cancer Research UK Manchester Centre Scientific Deep Dive. The theme was Cancer Team Science and the important connections and collaborations between laboratory and clinical scientists. Following an overview of Team Science at the University of Manchester and the importance of assembling the right team for the right job from Ruth Norris, we explored three different applications of Team Science:

  • The LION and IMPALA trials led by Dr Santiago Zelenay from the CRUK Manchester Institute and Dr Anne Armstrong from The Christie. These trials explore how aspirin can be used to inhibit COX-2 and enhance immune checkpoint blockade and enhance clinical benefit.
  • Work from my laboratory jointly presented by Dr Maria Jakobsdottir and I. We discussed the multi-omics of hypoxia in prostate cancer, and how we are applying our laboratory research to a novel trial: HYPROGEN.
  • Finally, we finished the morning with a series of talks from the MR-Linac and radiotherapy teams including: Dr Martin Swinton who spoke further about the HYPROGEN trial (further details can be watched in the video about HYPROGEN below), Michael Dubec and Lisa McDaid about setting up the technology to image hypoxia in prostate cancer, Dr Jane Shortall about how to achieve personalised treatments for prostate cancer using image based data mining, and finally Dr Alan McWilliam about identifying biomarkers to be used in radiomics and radiogenomics.


This latest Scientific Deep Dive was an exceptional way to start the year and we’re looking now to the next event in a couple of months’ time.


Dr Martin Swinton explains the HYPROGEN Trial, funded by Cancer Research UK and Prostate Cancer UK, which aims to better understand the clonal evolution of prostate cancer genomics in the tumour microenvironment.

Dr Martin Swinton in the OCRB lecture theatre
The Prostate Gap photography exhibition in the OCRB foyer

The Prostate Gap exhibit now open in the OCRB

As I’m sure everyone who works in the OCRB will no doubt have seen, we have an exhibit on display in the foyer. The Prostate Gap explores under-represented people with prostate cancer who have shared their stories about the barriers and cultural obstacles that stand in their way, and will be available until the 17th February.

As a prostate cancer researcher and someone who has seen the impact prostate cancer can have on people from every community, I’m extremely happy that we have had the opportunity to exhibit these pictures in the OCRB. Not only does it act as a reminder for those of us who work in the lab everyday why we research cancer and the people who could benefit from our research, but it demonstrates that cancer can affect anyone. I implore everyone to come to the OCRB and check out the exhibit for themselves and take stock of their individual experiences.

In other news from the MCRC

Finally, in other developments from the MCRC:

  • Members of our operations team – Rachel Chown and Kate Stirling – are in Kenya this week (23rd January) alongside Dr Janelle Yorke and Dr Fabio Gomes to help further develop our ongoing NIHR GHR grant on oesophageal research. We’ll be debriefing on their trip when they return, and no doubt be hearing about their experiences in future updates.
  • Saturday the 4th of February marks World Cancer Day, and there are lots of activities taking place from across the MCRC and our partners. Look out for a special episode of our podcast: One in Two: A Manchester Cancer Research Podcast where I discuss my prostate cancer research, international collaborations, and why I decided to make Manchester my home. Keep an eye out on our social media channels throughout next week for further information.


I wish everyone a fantastic February and look forward to updating you in our next update.


Robert Bristow

Director of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre

Director of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Centre