Cancer Research UK launches London biotherapeutics powerhouse

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

The new Cancer Research UK City of London Centre, a research collaboration between University College London, King’s College London, Queen Mary University of London and the Francis Crick Institute, is seeking to become a global centre of excellence for biotherapeutics, a pioneering field of cancer research.

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.

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.

Iain Foulkes, Cancer Research UK’s executive director of research and innovation, said: “Our investment represents a major vote of confidence in London’s place at the heart of global biomedical research and is predicted to bring enormous benefit to the city’s residents, businesses and hospitals. 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.”

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. With this substantial new funding and world leading expertise, the Cancer Research UK City of London Centre is especially well placed to deliver on these promises.

“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.”

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