Cambridge Set to Become Cancer “Supercentre”

Cambridge is to become a cancer science super-centre in a new strategy unveiled today by Cancer Research UK in the medical technology capital of Britain.

And in separate but related initiatives, more than £1 billion is being injected into new cancer-centric facilities and scientific initiatives in Cambridge by various major players in the near future. The multi-faceted boost will create a large number of new jobs and was announced as the Cambridge Cancer Centre at the Addenbrooke’s Hospital campus was presented with a rare and significant European accreditation.

Cambridge has become the first general hospital site facility in the UK to receive the OECI (Organisation of European Cancer Institutes) Comprehensive Cancer Centre Accreditation. OECI president, Wim van Harten, presented the award at a showcase designed to kickstart a high powered collaborative upspin involving all the major players based at Cambridge Cancer Centre, leading clinicians, scientific research groups, diagnostic companies and Big Pharma.

Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said that while the charity was pumping £44 million a year into the Cambridge cancer effort, CRUK’s new five-year strategy would rollout a new funding model embracing areas of unmet need, even greater support for diagnostics and circulating biomarkers that aided earlier detection and treatment, and unprecedented exploratory work.

CRUK had 18 centres across the UK but would encourage greater collaboration across the network to stimulate more integrated, multi-disciplinary research. It intends to create a small number of supercentres where it saw major opportunities to leverage this new strategy. In a hub and spoke approach, these dedicated centres would help the smaller ones in the network.

“Cambridge is one of our leading centres and we have seen groundbreaking research here in the last seven years. We intend to do more to tap into this rich research pipeline and do more to fund and support work in areas which have perhaps not been prioritised previously,” Dr Kumar said.

Sir Bruce Ponder, who was founding director of Cambridge Cancer Centre, unveiled a string of capital expansions that will see well over £1bn injected into the Cambridge campus in the short to medium terms – over and above the CRUK investment – by Centre members.

• The Wellcome Trust/MRC Stem Cell Institute: A dedicated new 16,000 sq m facility to be located opposite the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute which will contain the Centre for Blood and Leukaemia Research.
• The Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute will develop the third floor of the building and take on 120 new researchers. Preliminary plans are for building capacity in pancreas biology, glioblastoma, cell biology of hormonally-driven epithelia, biology of pre-neoplasia, imaging, statistics and bioinformatics.
• AstraZeneca, as publicised, will move its R & D and Corporate HQ to the campus in a £330m project creating 2,000 jobs for Cambridge.
• Cambridge Cancer Centre will expand bioinformatics and computational biology support for clinical application by developing a facility next to the new Cancer Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory.
Addenbrooke’s Hospital will undertake a £3m refurbishment of oncology and haematology day patient facilities including additional clinic rooms and sample processing laboratory space to facilitate research.
• The Hospital will develop the £200m e-Hospital programme with the capability of interfacing with research requirements, enabling the seamless linking of clinical data with samples for research.
The University of Cambridge will underwrite an extension to the Addenbrooke’s Centre for Clinical Investigation (ACCI). The cancer-related elements of this will be an MHRA-accredited 24-hour Phase I unit to facilitate the continued development of experimental cancer medicine, and a facility for interventional procedures and high acuity tissue sampling.
• In the medium term, Addenbrooke’s Hospital aims to have capital investment (in partnership with appropriate philanthropy) to prioritise a major Ambulatory Cancer Centre incorporating the best diagnostic and treatment techniques derived from genomic research.

Sir Bruce issued a call to arms to all major research organisations and Big Pharma to join the Cambridge collaborative effort to fight cancer and highlighted figures that showed that Addenbrooke’s was already outstripping the rest of the UK for five-year survival rates – 95 per cent compared to the UK average of 82 per cent in prostate cancer; 21 per cent against 12 per cent in oesophagas cancer and eight per cent against four per cent in cancers of the pancreas, for example.

But the fight was only just beginning and Cambridge intended to lead it. Sir Bruce said that the Anglia region had another UK lead – an extremely stable population. This would greatly aid the search for information that could lead to better diagnostics for individuals, earlier detection – and to personalised medicine for cancer sufferers.

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