The 24th of September marks World Cancer Research Day and aims to showcase the importance of cancer research in improving the outcomes of patients. The COVID pandemic has been fundamental in demonstrating the importance of working internationally to address global challenges and how collaboration and teamwork can provide major step changes in life-saving research.
Working towards a united goal
At the heart of every comprehensive cancer centre is the patient. We are all working toward a uniform goal: creating a future free from the burden of cancer for all. This will be achieved by inclusive research and treating each patient as an individual through best engagement practices for prevention and early detection through to best strategies to improve cancer survival and decrease short- and long-term side effects in patients. It is the reason most of us took up the challenge and calling to become cancer researchers and is the aim behind every experiment, database interrogation, clinical trial and patient and public engagement sessions.
It is Cancer Research UK’s vision that within the next 20 years, 75% of patients with cancer will survive (“3 in 4 survive in 2034”). We share this ambition, and the research we carry out here in Manchester puts us in the best possible stead to improve patient outcomes with local, national and in fact, global impact. Our focus on bringing our research programming and best therapeutics to the diverse communities in Greater Manchester highlights our drive to improve outcomes for all patients with cancer.
World Cancer Research Day
This World Cancer Research Day, it is vital that we acknowledge and celebrate the broad variety of research themes in Manchester, our next generation of cancer researchers, and research exemplars. Cancer is a global challenge, and as such it requires us to tackle it collaboratively. This past year, we have made great strides in reducing health inequalities across the globe and set up key international collaborations that expand on Manchester’s successes, share our knowledge and tackle key global challenges in cancer.
Addressing these challenges requires a focus across multiple areas: paediatric oncology, geriatric oncology and supporting individuals living with and beyond cancer, comorbidity research, novel therapeutics development, and prevention and early detection. Individually, each is a component that could be said for any cancer centre, but it is only when bringing all these elements together that innovation and significant advances can be made.
Key exemplars from this past year include:
- A close partnership with Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital to improve cancer outcomes, with specific projects investigating the high mortality and genomics associated with oesophageal cancer and designing early detection strategies in Africa.
- The further development of collaborative projects funded through the International Alliance for Cancer Early Detection to further early detection science in Manchester, Cambridge and London, and in the United States with collaborations at Stanford University in California, and Oregon Health Science University.
- Closer ties with the University of Toronto following a successful grant between Prof. Marianne Koritzinsky and I to look at key aspects and technologies to probe tumour heterogeneity and the microenvironment.
- Developing our collaboration in Melbourne with Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre with a virtual collaborative workshop related to imaging and prostate cancer with further meetings in development.
- Alongside these research projects, our Communications team has hosted more than 25 events in the past year featuring over 140 speakers from across the globe
The next generation of Cancer Leaders
Manchester is more than just our academic successes and our specific themes and collaborations. It is driven by the enthusiastic work of individuals, cancer research PhD students, post-PhD and clinical fellows, lecturers and more. Their responses to the question ‘Why did you become a cancer researcher?’ are inspiring and speak for themselves:
To empower people - the more research we do together, the more knowledge we can discover to empower patients, peers, and families and loved ones, in the fight against cancer.
CRUK Manchester Centre Non-Clinical Postgraduate Researcher | Division of Molecular & Cellular Function
A person with cancer is not just a data point; my research in personalised cancer prevention is crucial to reducing cancer cases and saving lives.
CRUK Clinical Academic Training Award MB-PhD Student | Division of Cancer Sciences
Operating on brain cancer patients is not just a service but a great privilege, and engaging in research is my way of giving back to this community who puts so much trust in our hands as neurosurgeons.
CRUK RadNet Manchester-Associated Clinical Research Training Fellow | Division of Cancer Sciences
When I lost my father to stomach cancer at 16, I decided to become a radiographer and cancer researcher so that I could help develop safer and more effective treatments for future patients.
CRUK RadNet Manchester Research Radiographer | Division of Cancer Sciences
I am a cancer researcher because I don’t just want patients to survive cancer, I want them to thrive and live the life they want, in spite of their cancer.
CRUK Manchester Centre Clinical Research Training Fellow | Division of Cancer Sciences
Thank you to everyone who provided input and their own personal reasons for becoming a cancer researcher.
Team Science and a One Manchester Ethos
Core to the MCRC is our value of Team Science. Engaging researchers, patients, clinicians and members of the public from all disciplines acts to push forward our research activities through increased knowledge sharing and diversifying who is included in the research pipeline.
Team Science is epitomised through our new £150m comprehensive cancer research facility as the Paterson Rebuild that will become the symbol of co-localised cancer research in Manchester as the home to 700 clinicians, scientists and professional services staff when it opens in early 2023. This new building will help to promote translational research and further encourage the sharing of knowledge and experiences between laboratory researchers and clinicians.
I can think of no better way to close than by highlighting how much I look forward to the future of research in Manchester and the promise of this new build: the best synergy between the University of Manchester, Cancer Research UK and The Christie; the rapid acceleration of discovery in the laboratory to clinical impact; and, an ambition to double the number of patients offered a cancer clinical trial in Manchester.