MCRC Director’s Update – December 2022

Professor Robert Bristow in his office in the OCRB

Hello everyone! I hope you’ve all had an enjoyable November and December. The past two months have been exciting ones for the MCRC, headlined by our International Advisory Board (IAB), an engaging Director’s Lecture from our IAB chair Prof. Karen Knudsen, and other events focused on early detection.


RadNet Scientific Advisory Board and MCRC International Advisory Board

At the start of November we were visited by several esteemed members of the wider academic community who joined us to appraise the scientific portfolios of the MCRC and CRUK RadNet Manchester. Having previously been held virtually, we were all eager to hold the 2022 boards in person and welcome them to Manchester so they could see first-hand where our incredible research takes place.


Firstly, we held the CRUK RadNet Manchester Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) to critically appraise the radiotherapy research programmes. The panel of experts covering fields of clinical and basic biology radiotherapy provided insightful suggestions to help make our research more collaborative which will no doubt inform future grant activities.


Immediately following this, the MCRC International Advisory Board met to provide a critical evaluation of several core research themes, noting where we are currently world leading and evaluating our future ambitions. The board heard from our biomarkers, digital, advanced materials, experimental cancer medicine, lung cancer, breast cancer, and haematological cancer research programmes, as well as our ambitions as part of our new KUTRRH-Manchester collaborative NIHR GHR research grant.


I’m pleased with the comments and feedback that have been provided. The Board has identified several areas where we are currently world leading, and offered suggestions of how our current activities could be more impactful. Their comments will be taken to the senior leadership teams at the University, The Christie and Cancer Research UK so that we can identify how best to implement and improve the impact of our research.


On behalf of the entire research team in Manchester, I’d like to thank Prof. Karen Knudsen, Prof. David Jaffray, Prof. Pat LoRusso, Prof. Ignacio Melero, Prof. Sheila Singh, Prof. Bertrand Tombal, and Prof. Daniel Zips for taking the time to join us in Manchester for our MCRC IAB. Thanks also to Prof. David Jaffray, Prof. Daniel Zips, Prof. Tony Lomax, Professor Marie-Catherine Vozenin, Dr Mike Velec, and Dr Alexandre Bobard for joining our RadNet SAB.


Director’s Lecture – Prof. Karen Knudsen

Following the IAB’s input into our research portfolio, and a whistlestop tour of the new research facility, our IAB chair Prof. Karen Knudsen delivered an engaging lecture about developing a tripartite approach for ending cancer as we know it. In her role as CEO of the American Cancer Society (ACS), Karen provided a rich and data driven journey through cancer outcomes and revealed how expected advances in cancer have not been uniform for everyone.


Karen detailed how the ACS is now focused on tackling inequalities in cancer care and treatment, as well as supporting people affected by cancer and living beyond cancer. This approach is further symbolised by the eight words that define ACS: ‘Ending Cancer As We Know It, For Everyone’. Thank you again to Karen for an engaging and thought-provoking lecture.


Robert Bristow presenting Karen Knudsen with an MCRC Director's Lecture certifciate

Manchester Early Detection Research Symposium


On the 6th of December, we held the first of our annual research symposia covering early detection research from across Manchester. Chaired by Dr Emma Woodward, the event was an excellent opportunity to hear about the latest research and innovations taking place in early detection, covering our International Alliance for Cancer Early Detection and NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre.


It was amazing to see so many up-and-coming researchers at the event take to the stage and present their research. Not only did we have PhD students presenting posters and delivering presentations, but we had the next generation of early career researchers showcasing how their work is impacting the field of early detection.


We were also joined by Dr Trevor Pugh from the Princess Margaret Cancer Center in Toronto, Canada. His talk covered how we can use cell free DNA to detect hereditary cancers earlier and the challenges and opportunities this poses to researchers.


Other developments from across the MCRC

  • At the beginning of December we wrapped up our first collection of “Let’s Talk About …” Equality Diversity and Inclusivity seminars. Throughout 2022 we’ve hosted six sessions, in partnership with the CRUK City of London Centre (formerly the CRUK Barts Centre), covering a range of topics including, being LGBTQ+ in research, work life balance, mental health, the signing Deaf community, and women in cancer research. In 2023 we’ll be expanding this joint seminar series with the rest of the CRUK Centre’s network. So watch this space to see what new EDI seminars we have in store.
  • From my laboratory, Translational Oncogenomics at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, I’d like to congratulate Dr Jack Ashton who has passed his viva with flying colours and has now taken up a position at Astra Zeneca.
  • Nic Jones, Director of Strategic Initiatives, has written an update on the development of the former Paterson building as we enter the final stages of construction and many of the internal facilities are completed. You can read his update on the MCRC Website.
  • In November I chaired the Clinical Research Committee at CRUK headquarters in Stratford, as well as attending the RadNet Directors and Project Managers meeting in Leeds, where we had a fruitful discussion about the future of a collaborative radiotherapy network.
  • I attended the Translational Research in Manchester event on the 16th of November, providing an overview of Team Science and the impact of pump-priming research ideas.


This is our last update of 2022. It has been yet another unprecedented year with many challenges that our collective teams have worked effortlessly to overcome. Looking back on the year, I am proud of how we have come together to find new discoveries that help patients affected by cancer. We’ve achieved some incredible things: the successful renewal of the CRUK Manchester Centre, the NIHR Manchester BRC, the NIHR Global Health Research collaboration with Kenyatta University Teaching Referral and Research Hospital; numerous scientific discoveries and almost a thousand publications.


I hope everyone has an enjoyable and relaxing holiday break and comes back in 2023 feeling refreshed and ready for another exciting year at the MCRC.


Robert Bristow, Director of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre


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