MCRC Director’s Update – May 2023

Professor Robert Bristow in his office in the OCRB

Hello, I hope everyone has had an exciting May settling into their new laboratories and offices in the OCRB and Paterson Building. Outside of the hard work everyone has been putting into the logistics of moving laboratories across our Withington campus, this month has been another eventful month at the MCRC with conferences, visits to other cancer centres, and multiple awards and accolades.


The Paterson Building Opens


Following the completion of construction last month, the process of moving the various laboratories has been progressing well. It cannot be understated how complex the logistics are in moving so many laboratories across locations and it is a testament to the excellent planning and organisation of the teams behind the scenes for how well it has progressed so far.


I’m extremely pleased to see that experiments are already being conducted and that disruption has been kept to a minimum.

Over the next couple of months, we’ll continue to see more changes to the building as our professional services teams move to their new workspaces, but I’m excited about the prospect of this new phase of world leading cancer research that will be enabled by state of the art building.

With members of the CRUK Manchester Institute now back home in Withington, we have assembled a world-leading campus of cancer research, discovery and treatment. As we start to look towards the future, we have at our disposal exceptional facilities in the Oglesby Cancer Research Building and Paterson Building, some of the greatest minds mentoring the next generation of cancer leaders, as well as exceptional treatment facilities at The Christie, MFT, and Northern Care Alliance. Combined, this makes Manchester one of the best places in the world to research this disease and potentially improve the outcomes of anyone affected by cancer.


Tweet from the Tim Somervaille Laboratory showing the first experiment taking place in Tissue culture facilities of the new Paterson Building

MCRC Attends ESTRO 2023


Between 12th-16th May, members of the MCRC attended ESTRO in Vienna to showcase the best of our radiotherapy related research. Attending this year, it was great to see so much research presented from Manchester on themes from imaging and radiobiomarkers to clinical image-guided radiotherapy and radiomics. I was also proud to share research from my own lab about genomics-specific selection of radiotherapy patients focusing specifically on hypoxia and genetic instability. Congratulations should also be shared for many members of the Manchester team who also received accolades throughout ESTRO:

  • Catharine West, who has received the Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her extensive work in radiobiology and radiotherapy biomarkers.
  • Dr Azadeh Abravan who was awarded the Elsevier Young Researcher Award and appointed to the yESTRO committee.
  • Marcel Van Herk will receive the Van der Schueren Award at ESTRO 2024 for his continuous commitment to education and training of radiotherapy professionals
  • Finally, Dr Marianne Aznar has been appointed to the ESTRO RT board as the new Physics Representative

We also used this opportunity to meet with various other members of cancer centres from across the world devising new collaborations and successful partnerships.

A further highlight of ESTRO was an exceptional networking event organised by the MCRC and Christie School of Oncology. Held on the Sunday during ESTRO, it was a great opportunity to connect with former colleagues, collaborators, and alumni from our programmes. We’re now looking to host future events at other conferences throughout the year.

MCRC Team attending the opening ceremony of ESTRO 2023
ESTRO 2023 and 2024 award winners: Professor Peter Hoskin, Professor Catharine West and Professor Marcel Van Herk
Members of the MCRC Team meeting with representatives of Dresden Cancer Centre
MCRC and Christie School of Oncology networking lunch held during ESTRO, showing a packed hall of guests


In other developments

  • This month, I visited Belfast to meet with my counterparts at the Prostate Cancer UK FASTMAN Centre of Excellence. This centre of excellence has enabled Manchester and Belfast to devise new innovations in treatments and trials and helped drive our biological understanding of prostate cancer. We had a very productive meeting about future collaborations between our two cities.
  • Congratulations to Prof. John Radford, Dr Sacha Howell, Professor Richard Cowan, Dr Joanna Williams and Ms Elsita Payne who were awarded with a Making A Difference award for Outstanding benefit to society through research. Their project, Breast screening After Radiotherapy Dataset (BARD) has changed national policy and clinical practice and has led to women across England being automatically offered screening at the right time.
  • This month we also said an official farewell to former director of the CRUK Manchester Institute Prof. Richard Marais who, alongside Prof. Caroline Springer, have established the spin-out organisation Oncodrug. Having been institute director for nine years between 2012 – 2021, Richard provided leadership at the Institute during many incredibly difficult challenges most notably the Institute fire in 2017 and the pandemic in 2020. We wish Richard and Caroline all the best in their entrepreneurial endeavours.


Looking ahead at next month, we have an exciting number of activities taking place at the start of the month, beginning with our Postgraduate Research Showcase on the 1st-2nd June, followed by ASCO conference from the 2nd – 6th June and finally, members of the MCRC team and I will be visiting our collaborators in Kenya related to our ongoing research collaboration investigating early detection interventions in oesophageal cancer.


Finally, it was with great sadness that this month we learned of the sad passing of Laura Nuttall, an inspiring University of Manchester alumna from an incurable brain tumour. Her efforts raised considerable attention of brain tumours through her ambassadorship with The Brain Tumour Charity and fundraising efforts. Our thoughts are with her friends and family at this difficult time.


I wish everyone a productive June and will update you all at the end of next month.


Robert Bristow

Director of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre

Director of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Centre


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