Funding boost for experimental treatments for cancer

16 Jan 2023
Scientists and clinicians will receive £47.5 million over the next 5 years from a partnership between Cancer Research UK, NIHR, the health departments of the devolved nations and The Little Princess Trust to deliver early phases of clinical research, with the aim of generating new treatments for future generations.
£40.8 million will be provided for clinical trials and associated translational research into adult cancers at 17 adult Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres (ECMCs) in Belfast, Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford, Southampton and five locations in London – Barts, Imperial, King’s, University College London and a joint centre between the Institute of Cancer Research and Royal Marsden.
The Little Princess Trust has joined the existing partnership (CRUK, NIHR & the Scottish Government), - providing an additional £1.2 million to expand research at 12 paediatric ECMCs across the UK. CRUK, NIHR have matched this contribution and Health and Care Research Wales has also joined, increasing the total budget for paediatric ECMCs to £6.6 million over 5 years – meaning that more clinical trials can be carried out into promising new treatments for children’s cancer.
Every year, around 4,200 children and young people are diagnosed with cancer in the UK*. The paediatric ECMCs put new drugs through early clinical trials to see if they are effective against different types of cancer. If these early clinical trials are successful, these medicines can progress further with the aim of ultimately becoming the cancer treatments of the future for children and young people. 
The increased funding for the paediatric network will help employ new research staff, including nurses and data managers who are critical for delivering these trials to patients. The funds will support centres in Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Southampton and two locations in London – the Institute of Cancer Research and a joint centre between University College London and Great Ormond Street Hospital. 
The ECMC network is a partnership between Cancer Research UK, The Little Princess Trust, the National Institute of Health and Care Research (NIHR) in England, the Chief Scientist’s Office in Scotland, Health and Care Research Wales and Northern Ireland’s HSC Public Health Agency. 
Since 2007, when the ECMC network was first established, 30,000 patients have taken part in 2,100 clinical trials of promising new cancer treatments.
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 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.”
Chief Executive of The Little Princess Trust, Phil Brace, said
“Cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease amongst children and young people, and we are determined to change that.
“Since 2016, The Little Princess Trust has been funding research with the aim to improve outcomes with targeted treatments with less toxicity for children and young people with cancer. We have made progress but there is more to do! 
“We will achieve so much more for children and young people by working together. We are delighted to be working with Cancer Research UK and NIHR, and being part of the collaboration which has seen the funding doubled to enable more trials to be available for children and young people through the ECMC Paediatric network.
“The Little Princess Trust with CRUK and NIHR will more than double the overall funding for the paediatric ECMC network over the next five-year period. All funding from The Little Princess Trust will contribute solely to the paediatric network, which is an enormous area of unmet need, and we hope will have a much-needed impact on children and young people with cancer.”
Minister of State for Health, Helen Whately, said:
“A cancer diagnosis can be devastating but the earlier the diagnosis, the better the chance to treat it and beat it. We are already picking up more cancers early by screening but we can do even better. 
“This partnership between Cancer Research UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Research and the Little Princess Trust will fund innovative trials that could lead to new life-saving treatments.  
"Every life lost to cancer is devastating and I’m pleased that across the country, people will be given renewed hope – especially children and young people – that we can beat this awful disease.”
*Average annual number of cancer cases (all cancers combined plus non-malignant brain, other central nervous system and intracranial tumours: ICD10 C00-C97, D32-D33, D35.2-D35.4, D42-D43 and D44.3-D44.5) diagnosed in children and young people aged 0-24 years in the UK in 2016-18.