The Role of the ECMC Network
The ECMC Network is made of up 18 adult centres and 11 paediatric locations across the UK. Each Centre has unique capabilities, with world-leading expertise, yet it is collaboration that gives the Network the edge in research excellence.
ECMC investigators and industry are able to access a broad range of skills and experience to help generate new treatments for cancer. The ECMC Network strives to push the boundaries of cancer care, by delivering novel and highly personalised treatments that target a wide range of cancer types.
The role of experimental medicine is incredibly important in the development of new cancer treatments, and yet the journey of a clinical treatment from ‘bench to bedside’ is a long and often complex one.
Years of research are dedicated to pre-clinical laboratory work, where basic research is carried out at a cellular level, and thousands of potential components are discovered. Further applied research in the laboratory continues on from this process, where a handful of promising treatments are developed, designed and created.
The translational element of the process follows, with potential treatments being tested in humans and propelled to early phase clinical trials. During the early phase trials, a select number of patients are given the treatment to determine how well the drug is tolerated. These trials allow for the drug to become better understood - in both safety and efficacy - before it is developed further and more widely distributed in later stage trials over the course of weeks and months.
Unlike other clinical trials that can often test safe treatments on healthy candidates, cancer trials cannot ethically administer trial drugs on healthy candidates due to their aggressive nature. Therefore early phase cancer trials, such as the ones carried out by the ECMC Network, rely entirely on the willing collaboration of the cancer patients.
Clinical trials have transformed over the years with the advent of using biomarkers, which are naturally occuring molecules, genes, or characteristics by which a particular pathological or physiological process or disease - like cancer - can be identified.
By providing answers to key questions, biomarkers can allow for the design of personalised cancer treatments and maximise more focused therapeutic opportunities for its many patients.