Cancer Research UK launches London biotherapeutics hub

The city of London will be transformed into a world leading hub for cancer biotherapeutics research and treatment, with a new £14 million investment from Cancer Research UK.

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

Cancer patients over 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.

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.

Dr Iain Foulkes, Cancer Research UK’s executive director of research and innovation, said: “The unique research focus of the Cancer Research UK City of London Centre will lay the foundation for the future of precision medicine, where existing treatments are combined with, or even replaced entirely by the latest biological therapies, with the hope of achieving lasting cures for more cancer patients.”

Professor Tariq Enver, centre lead at UCL, said: “There have already been huge advances in biotherapeutics, many led from our Centre. 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.”

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.”

Professor Enver continued, “Cancer won’t be cured by a biologist or a clinician alone. 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.”