Major Funding For Oxford Will Help Find New Cancer Treatments

The search for new cancer treatments in Oxford is to receive a major funding investment of up to £3,085,356, providing future hope for people diagnosed with the disease.

The University of Oxford’s Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) will receive the investment over the next five years to help doctors and scientists find the cancer treatments of the future for both adults and children.

ECMCs work in conjunction with local NHS facilities to provide access to cutting-edge cancer treatments. Testing these treatments helps to establish new ways of detecting and monitoring the disease and to evaluate how it responds to the treatment.

The funding has been made possible by a partnership between Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health and Care Research.

Oxford is part of a network of 17 ECMCs across the UK, funded by Cancer Research UK, which deliver clinical trials of promising new treatments. Since 2007, when the network was first established, around 30,000 patients have taken part in 2,100 trials.

Oxford ECMC’s main goal is to individualise patient care. As well as developing new cancer treatments, the centre works to biologically identify those patients most likely to benefit from treatments.

The funding will allow new, experimental treatments – including immunotherapies – for a wide variety of cancers to be developed, as well as improve existing therapies.

Sarah Blagden, Professor of Experimental Oncology at the University of Oxford and Oxford ECMC centre lead, said:

“We are delighted to have been awarded this generous funding from CRUK. This means we can continue to test the newest and best cancer treatments of the future and can also test ways to prevent cancer or enable its earlier diagnosis. We are already making headway in this area but to have CRUK’s endorsement is wonderful”

“The rich research environment available in Oxford can be applied to our clinical studies so that we can help understand not only if treatments work but how they work. This is vital if we want to make important cancer discoveries and advance the way cancers are treated in the future.

“One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer within our lifetimes so finding new effective treatments is vital.”

Cancer treatment image

Cancer Research UK has been integral in aiding the discovery of many new cancer treatments such as the drug tamoxifen, for which Cancer Research UK funded phase four clinical trials to validate it as an effective treatment for breast cancer.

Tamoxifen is now a mainstay treatment for people with oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer and appears on the World Health Organisation’s list of essential drugs for the disease.

As a result of tamoxifen, nearly two thirds of people diagnosed with breast cancer this decade are predicted to survive their disease for 20 years or more.

Executive Director of Research and Innovation at Cancer Research UK, Dr Iain Foulkes, said: 

“We are proud to be supporting an expansion of our successful ECMC network, bringing together vast medical and scientific expertise to translate the latest scientific discoveries from the lab into the clinic.

“The ECMC network is delivering the cancer treatments of the future, bringing new hope to people affected by cancer. The trials taking place today will give the next generation the best possible chance of beating cancer.

“The adult and paediatric ECMC networks will offer clinical trials for many different types of cancer. Researchers will be working to find new treatments and tackle the unique challenges presented by cancers in children and young people. Working with our partners, this new funding will bring hope for more effective, personalised therapies for everyone affected by cancer.”

Chief Executive of the NIHR, Professor Lucy Chappell, said: 

“The ECMC Network is a vital strategic investment in the UK’s cancer research community, bringing together top scientists and clinicians to tackle some of the biggest scientific challenges in cancer and improve outcomes for patients.
“Through this route, we enable more people to join trials that could help them. The ECMC Network will give access to brand new experimental treatments for patients, including children and young people, paving the way for these treatments to be used in the clinic one day. This is a crucial part of NIHR’s work, and enables more people to join trials that might help them.

Minister of State for Health, Helen Whately, said:

“A cancer diagnosis can be devastating but the earlier the diagnosis, the better the chance to treat it and beat it. We are already picking up more cancers early by screening, but we can do even better.

“This partnership between Cancer Research UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Research  will fund innovative trials that could lead to new life-saving treatments.

“Every life lost to cancer is devastating and I’m pleased that across the country, people will be given renewed hope that we can beat this awful disease.”