UCLPartners is both an Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC) and Academic Health Science Network (AHSN). Our AHSC cancer programme aims to improve early diagnosis and the treatment of at-risk patients. Our AHSN cancer programme compliments this work, aiming to ensure that all patients with cancer have access to the full range of treatment, therapy and care options of a world class cancer system – no matter where they live or where they are first treated.

Cancer programme (AHSC)

Our cancer programme aims to improve early diagnosis and the treatment of at-risk patients. To do this, the programme brings together expertise in basic research, translational medicine, clinical trials, epidemiology and behaviour research from across London.

The six cancer programme members working in partnership are:

The programme harnesses these world-class partnerships to facilitate the integration of a more precision-based approach to cancer care in all aspects of the care pathway, from early diagnosis to treatment follow up.

The cancer programme has three main goals:

Establish an AMC with international visibility and reputation in cancer research

In order to develop a personalised medicine approach, the cancer programme aims establish an immunotherapy centre to exploit our member’s expertise in tumour immunology, immune regulation, cancer vaccines, adoptive immunotherapy, T-cell engineering and vector design to develop new therapeutics.

To further support this goal, the programme aims to build a new institute to develop precision cancer medicine. The institute will focus on translational and experimental medicine and will contain a centre for precision paediatric cancer research.

Progress to date

The cancer programme is developing a proposal to secure funding for infrastructure to facilitate research across the partnership. The programme has been awarded £5 million from Cancer Research UK (CRUK). This will fund development of an immune monitoring core to underpin translational immunotherapy research.

Early diagnosis, screening and survival

The aim of this work is to enable earlier diagnosis of cancer by:

  • Redesigning diagnostic referral pathways
  • Better understanding the differences and inequalities in cancer survival in order to advise on investment in cancer services
  • Enabling more patients to be signposted to clinical trials at the earliest opportunity through the introduction of gene therapy panels
  • Developing work in cancer behavioural science, to tackle cancer deaths that can potentially be avoided by changing behaviour patterns

Progress to date

Several projects are now underway, including:

  • The introduction of low dose computed tomography (CT) screening for people at high risk of lung cancer
  • The redesign of suspected cancer diagnostic pathways through the implementation of direct access for GPs to endoscopy and multi-disciplinary diagnostic centres
  • The redesign of diagnostic pathways for referral into and within Barts Health NHS Trust sites

Cancer survival trends have been examined by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Cancer Survival Group. The work has led to significant publications in the Lancet and Lancet Oncology. The statistics from this work are being used to drive local management and national policy.

Developing and improving technology to understand and treat cancer

This work aims to link technology with the physical sciences to make advances in the detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Specific aims are to:

  • Develop a proton beam therapy centre (PBT)
  • Better understand the molecular and physiological processes of cancer
  • Develop targeted multifunctional nanoparticles for tracking by two or more imaging modalities, allowing delivery of small molecule therapeutics to primary tumours and metastases
  • Integrate imaging modalities with genomics and protein interaction analysis to understand cancer genome heterogeneity and predict individualised clinical outcome

Progress to date

Building of the PBT centre is underway and is planned to be completed by late 2018. Professor Ricky Sharma, a world-leading oncologist from Oxford University specialising in radiotherapy and cancer biology, will be leading the new clinical research programme alongside a team of top physicists.

Several investigators at the Kings College London/UCL Comprehensive Cancer Imaging Centre (CCIC), in collaboration with Professor Daniel Alexander (UCL), performed early proof-of-concept work on a newly developed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) sequence to quantify and map histologic features of tumors in vivo.

Investigators from the CCIC have collaborated with external partners to use a new technique in a breast cancer clinical trial. Read about the results of this clinical trial.

Programme leadership

Professor Tariq Enver, Professor of Stem Cell Biology and Interim Director at the UCL Cancer Institute

Cancer programme (AHSN)

Our Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) cancer programme is working to improve early cancer diagnosis, cancer outcomes and care for patients through the UCLH Cancer Collaborative which brings together healthcare organisations across north central and north east London, and west Essex.

London Cancer is part of the UCLH Cancer Collaborative (transferring from UCLPartners in September 2016) and supports 21 tumour pathway boards and expert reference groups to help drive change and reduce variation in cancer care across the region.

The UCLH Cancer Collaborative is one of three partners in the national Cancer Vanguard alongside Greater Manchester Cancer Vanguard Innovation and Royal Marsden Partners. Together the Cancer Vanguard serves a population of nearly 11 million and is working to change the way cancer care is provided.

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