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Monday 23 January 2023

Major funding for Southampton will help find new cancer treatments

A major funding boost for research in Southampton will help develop and improve treatments for people with cancer.

Cancer Research UK have awarded the Southampton Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) up to £1.8 million.

Developing cutting-edge cancer treatments

The funding covers the next five years. It will allow the centre to develop treatments of the future, including immunotherapies. It will also help improve existing treatments.

Our ECMC consists of experts from the University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (UHSFT). They work together to provide patients with access to cutting-edge cancer treatments.

Testing these treatments helps establish new ways of detecting and monitoring the disease. Trials and studies also assess how the cancer responds to the treatment.

Southampton ECMC lead, Prof Andrew Davies, said:

“We are delighted Southampton has secured this funding. Clinical trials are crucial to new and improved treatments becoming adopted as standard treatments by the NHS and this funding will allow us to further advance how we can treat cancer effectively.

“Thousands of patients have been provided with access to life-saving drugs and therapies through the Southampton ECMC, and this funding will benefit people with cancer across the South Coast and beyond.”

Hospital-university partnership

Dr Karen Underwood, Director of Research & Development at UHSFT, said:

“I’m delighted that our ECMC has been awarded this funding. Our ECMC is an integral part of our research infrastructure, and this award reflects the strengths of our hospital-university partnership here in Southampton.

This funding will ensure we continue to be at the forefront of cancer care, providing our patients with access to the very latest treatments and the best possible care.”

Professor Diana Eccles, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton, said:

“For more than 40 years, Southampton scientists have been at the forefront of cancer research, developing new treatments and running clinical trials, to ensure more people can be rid of this terrible disease.

“I am very proud that we have received this important funding that will enable us to continue our research at pace in the coming years.”

Building on past success

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

Cancer Research UK has been integral in aiding the discovery of many new cancer treatments. These include 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. It 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.

Part of a national network

Southampton is part of a network of 17 ECMCs across the UK, funded by Cancer Research UK. These 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.

This latest funding is possible due to a partnership between Cancer Research UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and the Little Princess Trust (for children’s cancers).

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 Little Princess Trust, Phil Brace, said:

“Cancer remains the leading cause of death amongst children and young people, and we must change that. 

“Since 2016, The Little Princess Trust has been funding research with the aim to offer more targeted and less toxic treatments for children and young people with cancer. We’ve made some good progress, but we want to do so much more.  

“We will achieve so much more for children and young people by working together. We’re delighted to be joining forces with Cancer Research UK and NIHR to expand funding for the paediatric ECMC network.”

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. We are proud to be partnering with Cancer Research UK and the Little Princess Trust in funding this network.

“The UK has considerable strengths in cancer research. We will continue to back life-saving research for the thousands of adult and children patients affected by cancer every year.”

Lead image credit: Cancer Research UK