Biotherapeutics powerhouse launched by CRUK in London

Cancer patients across the capital will now have the opportunity to take part in pioneering research as part of their treatment

Cancer Research UK will invest £14 million into a new hub for cancer biotherapeutics research and treatment, in London.

The new Cancer Research UK City of London Centre will bring together researchers from UCL, King’s College London, Queen Mary University of London and the Francis Crick Institute. It will become a global centre for biotherapeutics, a pioneering field of cancer research.

Cancer patients across large parts of the capital, including some of the most deprived areas of the city, will have the opportunity to take part in pioneering research as part of their treatment. Around 14 million people, in London and other areas of the country, are covered by the NHS trusts within UCL Partners and Kings Health Partners, and will be set to have access to the very latest innovations in biological cancer therapies.

Professor Tariq Enver, centre lead at UCL, said: “There have already been huge advances in biotherapeutics, many led from our centre and there’s enormous potential to transform how we approach the hardest to treat cancers like brain tumours and lung cancer."

“Our ambition is for the centre to stimulate further economic activity in biotechnology in London as new companies are formed and industry partners move in to translate the most promising discoveries into marketable therapies. London’s hospitals will also become flagship centres for treating patients with these new biological therapies, setting the standard for healthcare providers all over the world.”

Biotherapeutics are any type of treatment that is produced by, involves, or manipulates living cells. These therapies are based on biological processes in cells, which we can engineer to help fight cancer.

Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said: “We believe that, in the future, the biotherapeutics field will transform cancer care. However, there are several research challenges still to tackle. We need to understand why some patients respond to these new treatments while others don’t, and how to identify which patients might experience harmful side effects. Most importantly, we need to optimise their activity to offer more patients access to these therapies who may benefit."

We now know more about the genetic diversity within tumours, how they evolve, and the body’s immune response to cancer, than ever before. There’s a huge opportunity to use this knowledge to develop novel biological therapies that combat tumour evolution and to inform how best to use them in combination with other cancer treatments.

The City of London Centre will gather expertise from each partner institution including specialists in imaging, clinical trials and tumour evolution. Research will span all cancer types, including a focus on childhood cancers. There has been recent progress treating children with immunotherapies and researchers hope to extend this success to even more patients so that everyone, regardless of age or cancer type, can benefit from the latest innovations in treatment.

In addition to accelerating the development of some of the most promising cancer research studies in the capital, the centre will also provide multiple new opportunities for collaboration and training. This is the first time that these leading London institutions have partnered to tackle cancer on such a large scale.

“Cancer won’t be cured by a biologist or a clinician alone,” said Professor Enver. “We need physicists, chemists, engineers and mathematicians - researchers from many different disciplines – to come together to tackle the disease in new and innovative ways. The Cancer Research UK City of London Centre will be a catalyst for this scientific collaboration.”

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