Cancer Research UK (CRUK) are focusing their efforts to help detect cancer earlier and significantly improve survival chances.
For most cancers, the earlier it is detected and treated, the better the outcome. Take colorectal cancer, patients diagnosed at stage 1 have over a 95% survival chance, whereas those diagnosed at stage 4 have less than 8% survival chance1 and significantly higher costs of care2. However strikingly, close to half of all cancers are diagnosed at a late stage in the UK and it’s become CRUK’s mission to drive change, support researchers in detecting cancer at the earliest possible stage, and increase survival chances. To help them achieve their ambitious goal to see three-quarters of people with cancer surviving the disease by 2034, they’ve launched a number of initiatives in this area.
To increase, encourage and support transformative cancer early detection research, CRUK has rolled out new funding specific for this field of research, including several new funding streams from £20,000 – £2.5 million. The funding committee encourages high-risk, disruptive research, as well as international and industry collaboration.
To drive innovation and novel ground-breaking research, CRUK has teamed up with EPSRC and STFC to hold a series of three-day Innovation Sandpit Workshops, where they bring together multidisciplinary researchers to develop new ideas and solutions for the biggest challenges facing the early detection of cancer field. Researchers with the best ideas walk away with £100,000 seed funding to commence the project.
CRUK is focusing on improving the translation of novel cancer diagnostics and technologies. They are actively encouraging collaboration with industry through their grants, and are connecting academics with commercial researchers through a number of mechanisms, including a series of networking events that are held in partnership with Innovate UK and the Knowledge Transfer Network.
Through the Early Detection of Cancer Conference, held in partnership with the Canary Centre at Stanford University and the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Sciences University, CRUK is bringing together researchers working on cancer early detection from across the globe. The three-day event encompasses world-leading research, novel discoveries, scientific debate and plenty of networking. The next conference will be held on 24-26 September 2019 in San Francisco.
To unite the world’s brightest minds and drive game-changing research, CRUK is launching the International Cancer Early Detection (ICED) Alliance, a virtual research centre between six lead sites in the UK and the US. The Alliance will leverage key strengths at each site, driving novel collaborative research to accelerate progress in the field.
Finally, CRUK believes that it’s crucial to encourage and support the next generation of early detection researchers. To assist them, they’ve made the early detection of cancer a priority area for their Career Development Fellowship scheme.
1Cancer Research UK, https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/bowel-cancer/survival#ref-3, Accessed January 2019.
2Cancer Research UK (2014), Saving lives, averting costs, Cancer Research UK.
NHS England’s Chair, Lord David Prior, has welcomed the appointment of one of the country’s leading experts in genetics and personalised medicine, based at the University of Liverpool, to the organisation’s board.
Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, who is based at the University’s Institute of Translational Medicine, has been appointed by the Secretary of State as a non-executive director of NHS England. Among other posts, he is the David Weatherall Chair of Medicine and NHS Chair of Pharmacogenetics at the University, and Director of the MRC Centre for Drug Safety Science and Wolfson Centre for Personalised Medicine. Professor Pirmohamed is also the Founder and Chair of the UK Pharmacogenetics & Stratified Medicine Network.
His work has seen him at the forefront of research into the personalisation and safety of medicines based on an individual’s genetic make-up, and he was awarded a Knighthood in the Queen’s birthday honours in June 2015 for services to Medicine.
Lord Prior, said: “The NHS stands on the brink of being able to harness the benefits of genomic research to provide ever-more precise a2nd safe treatment for patients with a wide range of conditions. The completion of the 100,000 Genomes project puts the UK at the leading edge of a fundamental breakthrough in medical science. How we incorporate genomic medicine into the NHS, and combine genomic data with NHS data to stimulate research into further tests and treatments, is the greatest opportunity in a generation to improve the health of people in England, and indeed the rest of the world.
“As one of the world’s leading experts in this field, Professor Pirmohamed will bring invaluable knowledge and expertise to the table as we seek to make the most of this opportunity, and deliver as much benefit to patients as possible.
“I look forward to working with him and other colleagues in the New Year, as we will also be working to translate the important ambitions which will be set out in the NHS Long Term Plan into real improvements for patients in every part of England.”
Professor Pirmohamed’s appointment takes effect from 1 January 2019, for a period of three years, and was made following the established process for appointments to public boards.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced that the 100,000 Genomes Project, led by Genomics England in partnership with NHS England, has reached its goal of sequencing 100,000 whole genomes from NHS patients.
This ground-breaking programme was launched by then-Prime Minister David Cameron in 2012, with the goal of harnessing whole genome sequencing technology to uncover new diagnoses and improved treatments for patients with rare inherited diseases and cancer. The task was to make the UK a world leader within five years.
The 100,000 Genomes Project has delivered life-changing results for patients with one in four participants with rare diseases receiving a diagnosis for the first time, and providing potential actionable findings in up to half of cancer patients where there is an opportunity to take part in a clinical trial or to receive a targeted therapy.
To do this Genomics England worked with NHS England to create 13 NHS Genomic Medicine Centres (GMCs) to support the project, a state-of-the-art sequencing centre run by Illumina, Inc. and an automated analytics platform to return whole genome analyses to the NHS.
Genomics England and NHS England are extremely grateful to the 85,000 participants, 1,500 NHS staff, over 3,000 researchers, the National Institute for Health Research and the UK Government whose support and funding have been key to the success of this pioneering NHS transformation programme.
As a result the UK has become the first nation in the world to apply whole genome sequencing at scale in direct healthcare, as well as providing access to high quality de-identified clinical and genomic data for research aimed at improving patient outcomes.
The project has laid the foundations for a NHS Genomic Medicine Service, which will provide equitable access to genomic testing to patients across the NHS from 2019.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said:
Sir John Chisholm, Chair of Genomics England, said:
Professor Mark Caulfield, Chief Scientist at Genomics England, said:
Professor Dame Sue Hill, Chief Scientific Officer for England and Senior Responsible Officer for Genomics at NHS England, said:
Jillian Hastings Ward, Chair of the National 100,000 Genomes Project Participant Panel, said:
Francis deSouza, President and CEO of Illumina, Inc., said:
James Fenton, Project Manager at the NIHR National Biosample Centre – the facility that stores and processes samples for the 100,000 Genomes Project – said:
Helomics, a personalised healthcare company whose mission is to improve the standard of care for cancer through innovative precision oncology products and boutique CRO services, and Genomics England announced today that Helomics has become a full Discovery Forum partner. Helomics will utilize the rich de-identified genomics and clinical data set for the 100,000 Genomes Project to further develop its artificial intelligence-based precision oncology platform for ovarian cancer.
The 100,000 Genomes Project is a groundbreaking initiative, sequencing whole genomes of National Health Service patients with rare diseases and their families, as well as patients with common cancers. The aim is to transform healthcare through new diagnoses and personalized treatments. The Precision Medicine Market is set to exceed USD 96 billion by 2024; according to a research report by Global Market Insights, Inc. Helomics continues to be an innovative precision medicine company that will continue to show growth in this robust market in 2019 and beyond.
“We are excited to partner with Genomics England and gain access to the rich, de-identified, genomic and clinical data of the 100,000 Genomes Project. We intend to apply our state-of-the-art machine learning to this dataset to expand the capabilities of our precision oncology platform, which helps oncologists offer individualized treatment options for ovarian cancer patients. We anticipate this to be the first of several projects, leading ultimately to bringing the benefits of Helomics precision oncology to ovarian cancer patients within the NHS,” commented Gerald Vardzel, President and CEO of Helomics Corp.
Expanding on the scientific goals of the project, Dr. Mark Collins, VP of Innovation and Strategy at Helomics, said:
Commenting on the new Discovery Forum Partner, Joanne Hackett, Chief Commercial Officer of Genomics England, said: