Director’s Update – June 2020

Professor Robert Bristow in his office in the OCRB

Hello everyone, I hope we are all staying safe and well.


Anger and protest following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis have brought the topics of racism and discrimination into sharp focus within worldwide conversations occurring across different sectors. As we start to re-populate laboratories and build our research programmes with momentum following lockdown, I want to take this opportunity to address it directly on behalf of the MCRC.


Social responsibility and equality, diversity and inclusion are underlying principles at the heart of the MCRC and they have never been more important to re-iterate than now. Not all may be aware that the University of Manchester is leading the UK-Europe in social responsibility and therefore we will maintain this position by making sure we are doing our part within the MCRC.


Discrimination of any kind has no place in any society, let alone in a research environment within Manchester. At the MCRC, we condemn, racism, bullying, violence, sexual harassment and all forms of discrimination. As a cancer research organisation that is the partnership between the University of Manchester, Cancer Research UK and The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, we all have a duty to continually tackle these issues at their core.  Every talent and great idea with the potential to improve outcomes of cancer patients needs to be heard, understood and acted upon.


Confidential support is available to anyone who has experienced or experiencing such discrimination or harassment.  I encourage anyone to get in touch with the relevant institution using the anonymous support contacts available at the University available to them. Further information is available on the MCRC website and these principles are re-stated from Cancer Research UK.


Another aspect that can reflect the complexity of discrimination is the disproportionate representation of diverse populations in our cancer research programmes. Both cancer and COVID-19 have something in common: they don’t affect everyone equally. Both diseases can disproportionately affect the black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) populations. These are our everyday friends and relatives and colleagues within the rich fabric of our vibrant and diverse population within Manchester communities.


We need to do better in understanding and acting upon ethnicity-specific issues that includes optimal engagement for our prevention and early detection programmes, understanding individual cancer risk estimates and potential differential treatment responses and side-effects of cancer therapy. It is a superb area for future research to ensure MCRC’s full impact in the NHS through GM Cancer, the Manchester AHSC and Health Innovation Manchester.


I have been encouraged by the outpouring of commitments from our partners to do better. I feel this is best described by Michelle Mitchell, CEO of Cancer Research UK in one of CRUK’s latest blog posts:

Cancer Research UK exists to improve things for people with cancer – and that must mean, and has always meant, all people with cancer. Because cancer can affect anyone, regardless of their ethnicity, or their age, gender identity, religion or sexual orientation.”


Actions speak louder than words. The MCRC is building momentum in addressing the research needs relating to inequalities. Our World Cancer Day forum in February 2020 was the start of our activities to support BAME populations and cancer endpoints by actively listening to BAME voices and needs.


The MCRC is committed to the following principles:

  • To be committed always to equality, diversity and inclusion
  • To work with our partners and diverse communities in seeking the best ways to address societal inequalities and break down the barriers experienced by communities when it comes to cancer early detection
  • To develop a collaborative research strategy with representatives of BAME communities and integrate these communities into the research process
  • To listen and respond to all our communities so that research represents and impacts our diverse populations.


By addressing this complex multi-faceted issue together and working closely with our partners, we can tackle inequalities and implement real change to enact better cancer outcomes for all our communities in Manchester, the UK and across the world.



A closing note of thanks:

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the members of the technical and leadership teams at the University of Manchester and Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute are undertaking a phased reopening of laboratory areas. I want to thank them for making our research areas safe and with minimal  worry for COVID-19 transmission during experimentation within the Oglesby and AP sites. The priority is for this to be done safely, and specific research activities are being prioritised as discussed in previous communications.

I know we are all eager to return to the laboratory and continue our ambition and trajectory to be one of the top cancer research centres in the world.

As always, I hope everyone stays safe, looks after their friends, colleagues and family, and has a great July.




Further reading on this topic from the University of Manchester:

Collecting the experiences of BAME Communities during COVID-19:

A Conversation with Angela Saini, Racism, Science and Academia 30th June 2020: