It may be a slightly turbulent time for the UK’s relations with Europe, but Manchester is centre of the European science stage in 2016 - acting as ‘European City of Science’ as part of its role in hosting the EuroScience Open Forum meeting.
In addition, in early July, cancer experts from across Europe and further afield converged on Manchester as it hosted the biennial Congress of the European Association for Cancer Research (EACR).
The meeting was chaired by President of the EACR, Professor Richard Marais, who is Director of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute (CRUK MI), part of The University of Manchester. It was a fantastic opportunity for our world-leading scientists to share expertise and to show that Manchester is a global centre of excellence for cancer research.
Professor Marais opened the scientific programme by welcoming delegates to the city. He then introduced Sir Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, to give the Opening Address.
Over 130 of our researchers attended the Congress, with around half presenting work during the four-day meeting. Also present were operations staff members from the Manchester Cancer Research Centre, on hand in the Exhibition Hall to promote training and career opportunities and to raise the Centre’s international profile.
Manchester’s research strength was emphasised by the heavy presence of our scientists speaking in symposia. A high number of poster presentations demonstrated the sheer quality and breadth of activity from our groups.
Highlights included a cancer immunotherapy symposium featuring both Dr Santiago Zelenay from the CRUK MI and Professor Tim Illidge. Santiago spoke on his work exploring the mechanistic basis of tumour immunity, with an emphasis on the processes that regulate the balance between tumour-protective and tumour-promoting inflammation. Prof Illidge, head of the Targeted Therapy group at The University of Manchester, presented his research investigating the combination of immunotherapy with radiation, particularly the relationship between immune activation and tumour response after radiotherapy.
Sunday also saw Professor Caroline Dive chairing a session on liquid biopsies, where she gave a presentation on the utility of circulating tumour cells (CTCs) in lung cancer. Her Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology group is world leading in circulating biomarkers and had a number of posters covering various aspects of biomarker research, including CTCs and circulating tumour DNA in both small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer, as well as in pancreatic cancer. These minimally-invasive measures appear to hold great promise in selecting and monitoring treatment, and detecting relapse.
On Monday Dr Tim Somervaille took part in a symposium on novel targeted therapies, explaining his research into epigenetic approaches in acute myeloid leukaemia. The Leukaemia Biology and Drug Discovery teams at the CRUK MI collaborated on a hugely successful project to better understand the role of LSD1 in AML and to develop drugs to target this protein. Tim is now leading a clinical trial at The Christie for patients with AML, in partnership with a Spanish drug company.
There was great representation of MCRC research from across our priority areas: blood cancers, breast cancer, gynaecological oncology, melanoma and prostate cancer. Researchers from the Cancer Research UK Lung Cancer Centre of Excellence, the Manchester Breast Centre and the Prostate Cancer UK/Movember Belfast-Manchester Centre of Excellence were among those presenting during the conference. In many cases, doctors are working together with those in the laboratory to better understand the biology of cancer and to identify new lines of attack.
Overall the work on show revealed that Manchester is home to great cancer research – from fundamental studies investigating the genetic basis of cancer right through to large clinical trials testing better ways to diagnose and treat the disease. Our scientists are developing new treatment approaches, and revealing how to maximise patient benefit for these and existing therapies
A repeated refrain throughout the conference was that only through continued collaboration – locally, nationally and internationally – can research make an impact. It is one we wholeheartedly recognise – the MCRC partnership and our external alliances are at the centre of our strategy to implement personalised medicine for all cancer patients.