About the ECMC Network
Launched in October 2006, the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) Network is jointly supported by Cancer Research UK and the heath departments for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, providing a total of £35 million over five years to fund a network of Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres across the UK.
Aim of the initiative
The goal of the ECMC Network initiative is to drive the development of new therapies to bring benefits to patients faster.
What is experimental medicine?
Experimental medicine, also known as translational research, is a hot topic in the world of cancer science. It can be defined as "the investigation undertaken in human beings to identify mechanisms of disease and to test the validity and importance of new discoveries or treatments." Put simply, it's all about taking discoveries made in the lab and turning them into effective new treatments and diagnostic tools for cancer, such as biomarkers.
In terms of cancer research, biomarkers are measurable properties in the body (e.g. genes, enzymes, or hormones), whose levels indicate the likelihood of getting cancer, presence of the disease, its progression, response to treatment etc.
The process of Experimental Medicine can be long and sometimes tortuous, involving experts from many scientific and medical disciplines working together to develop and test new ideas.
How is this being achieved?
Each Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) brings together experts in cancer biology (lab scientists) with clinical researchers (cancer doctors) to speed up the flow of ideas from the lab bench to the patient's bedside. In this way, scientists can work with the clinic, to identify the needs of doctors and their patients, and come up with new ways to tackle cancer. And doctors have access to the very latest new drugs to test in clinical trials, finding out if potential treatments are safe and effective. Find out more about how we work with patients and the public.
As a result of these collaborations, a large number of early phase clinical trials are now being run, or are being planned, at ECMCs. Known as phase 1 and phase 2 trials, these aim to test new cancer drugs in patients, to find out if they're safe to use, whether there are any serious side effects, what dose to give, and - last but not least - if they work.
Through Network Groups
As well as building relationships within each ECMC, the Network aims to bring people together to share knowledge and ideas across the whole of the UK, through regular meetings and workshops. Read more about the Network Groups.
The ECMC Secretariat supports the Network by organising regular national meetings, managing governance processes and promoting the achievements of ECMCs.