MCRC Director’s Update – March 2022
March has been another exciting month at the MCRC with an opening up of the COVID restrictions gradually allowing face to face events across the country and internationally.
Creating a comprehensive cancer centre network in Kenya.
For the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been able to travel to Kenya to meet directly with our colleagues to discuss our research ambitions.
This month, I spent a week in Kenya as part of a UK delegation with Professors Graham Lord, Keith Brennan, and Mahesh Nirmalan from The University of Manchester and Professor Richard Cowan from The Christie to further develop our ongoing collaborations. Our visit was a success and has helped further solidify the strategy between The Christie, University of Manchester and Kenyatta University Teaching Referral and Research Hospital (KUTRRH) in joint programmes to focus on cancer research, cancer care and cancer education.
We started our KUTRRH tour with Prof. Olive Mugenda (Chair of Board of Directors at KUTRRH), where we witnessed a transformation of the cancer centre with modern radiotherapy, chemotherapy and imaging (including a PET scan facility); all now available now to the Kenyan public. This allows joint studies and training between the UK and Kenya using similar modern infrastructure.
Working with our colleagues in Kenya, we are beginning to build critical mass in East African genomics and biology and potential new models to study cancers that arise in the African continent. One plan is to set up a centralised genomics facility at KUTRRH that will complete NGS panels to understand the relationship between tumour response and genetic mutations in African cancers. This allows a comparison between the tumour mutations in Kenya, with those seen in patients at the Christie, and help understand treatment response in relation to the genetic differences in an individual’s cancer.
Travelling 300km west from Nairobi to Kisii County, we then met with the with the Vice Chancellor of Kisii University (Prof John Akama) and the Governor of Kisii (James Ongwae), to build a template whereby a new cancer centre in Kisii will be one of the spoke’s to the KUTRRH cancer hub similar to the hub and spoke model of cancer care provided by the Christie Trust and other trusts within the Greater Manchester region. It was exciting to see plans for a new cancer hospital and Education and Training Hub within a new 70-acre site planned as an education campus to provide the best treatment, education and research for healthcare workers.
Further meetings were held with the Ministry of Health to support work with developmental partners (e.g. WHO and the World Bank) to achieve a new cancer care healthcare system and finally, with His Excellency, President Kenyatta, who reiterated his strong commitment to the cancer care build in Kenya in partnership with Manchester.
This ongoing collaboration truly reflects the importance of scientific co-creation with exceptional international partners. Cancer is a global challenge, and there is still so much to understand about the genomics of cancer, how this is different in different populations, and how genomics affects the choice of precision therapy made available to patients. Internationalisation is a route for us to answer these scientific questions and ultimately deliver precision medicine for all with an inclusive lens.
[The collaboration between the Christie, University and KUTRRH] truly reflects the importance of scientific co-creation with exceptional international partners. Cancer is a global challenge, and there is still so much to understand about the genomics of cancer, how this is different in different populations, and how genomics affects the choice of precision therapy made available to patients. Internationalisation is a route for us to answer these scientific questions and ultimately deliver precision medicine for all with an inclusive lens.
Prof. Rob Bristow
Director, Manchester Cancer Research Centre
On Cancer Launch in Westminster
This month, several members of the MCRC Strategic Team and I also travelled to Westminster for an event organised by Policy@Manchester to mark the launch of On Cancer, a policy-influencing focused collection of thought-leadership stories from our academic researchers.
I was lucky to be joined by Dr Dónal Landers, Prof. Ananya Choudhury and His Excellency Manoah Esipisu, Kenya’s High Commissioner to the UK, on a panel discussion to speak about the various articles that are outlined in On Cancer. We covered elements including bringing services closer to the home with trial of more in-home technologies, as well as advanced radiotherapy technologies, and our global partnership with Kenya.
Cancer Research UK Manchester Centre Launch Celebration
I’m also very pleased that following a successful renewal process, the Cancer Research UK Manchester Centre will receive a further five years funding. Manchester will be one of seven CRUK Centres across the UK, joining Cambridge, Oxford, City of London, Convergence Science, Newcastle and Scotland.
The CRUK Manchester Centre will continue to drive translational science across five cross-cutting research themes: Cancer Biomarkers, Cancer Early Detection, Experimental Cancer Medicine, Integrative Pathology, and Radiotherapy BioAdaption. The competition for the renewal was particularly fierce for this renewal due in part to the widespread reduction in CRUK research funding due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To mark the past five years of research and look ahead to the new direction, vision, and objectives from the centre, we are organising a Launch Celebration event for the 26th of April 2022 in the OCRB Lecture Theatre. Everyone is welcome to join and hear from the Centre theme leads and I discuss the new Centre. Please register to attend via Eventbrite.
In other developments in this past month
Congratulations to Dr Mark Williams who has been awarded an MRC Clinician Scientist Fellowship to investigate “Preventing Acute Myeloid Leukaemia Relapse following Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplantation”. This is a very prestigious fellowship, and I look forward to working with Mark more in the future to develop One Manchester bone marrow transplant research across our three transplant centres.
Congratulations to Prof. David Wedge who has been shortlisted for an Outstanding contribution to equality, diversity, and inclusion Making a Difference Award for his work ‘Reducing inequalities in cancer tumour genetic screening’. The winners will be announced on the 10th May.
Continuing with the academic successes, both Prof. Corinne Faivre-Finn and Prof. Peter Hoskin have been admitted to the ESTRO Hall of Fame for their work in radiotherapy research. Corinne is the recipient of the Honorary Physicist award for outstanding contribution to the cause of physics. Peter is the recipient of the Emmanuel van der Schueren Award in honour of the founding father of ESTRO and recognition of his excellent scientific work to the field of education and promotion of radiation oncology as a discipline. These awards will be presented at ESTRO 2022 on the 6th-10th May 2022 in Copenhagen
We continued our partnership with the Cancer Research UK Barts Centre with the latest of our Let’s Talk About… seminar series. This month to mark International Women’s Day, Dr Jessica Okosun, Clinical Senior Lecturer at Barts Cancer Institute led the discussion providing her journey to become a clinical and academic scientist. It was great to have an engaging panel discussion focusing on the challenges facing women in science and spotlight to resources currently available. A write-up about the lecture series is now available on the Cancer Research UK Manchester Centre website.
I was also very humbled to be invited to attend an event at the Cancer Revolution: Science, Innovation and Hope, at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester to discuss our approach to research. Alongside Marcella Turner, Founder and CEO of Can Survive, and actress Victoria Ekanoye, I highlighted some of the activities we have led on in Manchester in early detection, advanced precision therapies, and genomics research. As the Cancer Revolution: Science, Innovation and Hope exhibition closes in Manchester, it has been fantastic to see so many members of the public engaging with our research activities.
I hope everyone has a great month and I look forward to updating everyone in April.