MCRC Director’s Update – November 2023
November has been an eventful month for the MCRC having: welcomed members of our separate CRUK RadNet Manchester Scientific and MCRC International Advisory Boards to Manchester; held two MCRC Director’s Lectures; and celebrated the first year of our landmark NIHR-funded Kenya-Manchester Cancer Early Detection collaboration.
Scientific and International Advisory Boards
On 31st October, we were delighted to be joined by Dr Alexandre Bobard, Professor David Jaffray, Professor Tony Lomax, Dr Mike Velec, Professor Marie-Catherine Vozenin, and Professor Daniel Zips for our CRUK RadNet Manchester Scientific Advisory Board. The board had the opportunity to input on the direction of our three research themes and six supporting research hubs offering insightful recommendations to make our research more impactful and international. Moreover, the board met many of our early career researchers through several presentations and poster sessions providing vital opportunities for our ECRs to network and present to international world-leading research leaders. The SAB worked with the CRUK leads during a “future RadNet 2.0 strategy” session as we prepare for our RadNet renewal bid in February, 2024.
Following this, between 2nd and 3rd November, the MCRC hosted its latest International Advisory Board (IAB) providing critical external evaluation of our research programmes including the CNS, peritoneal, prostate, penile and paediatric transplant cancer programmes and reviewed paediatric early detection, cancer biomarker, and nano-oncology platforms. We very much appreciate the feedback by our IAB members which include: Professors Sheila Singh – chair of the IAB – Harry De Koning, David Jaffray, Pat LoRusso, Karen Knudsen, Bertrand Tombal, and Daniel Zips.
Having now received reports from both boards, we are now working on implementing the learnings and carrying their insights forward into 2024.
Finally, I want to express a major thank you to the wider operations teams within the MCRC and Radiotherapy Related Research groups for handling the operational logistics organising these boards. Activities such as these involve many logistical challenges, and its smooth running is a testament to the productivity of our operations teams.
Members of the CRUK RadNet Manchester Scientific Advisory Board. Left to right: Dr Mike Velec, Professor David Jaffray, Professor Marie-Catherine Vozenin, Professor Tony Lomax, and Dr Alexandre Bobard. (Professor Daniel Zips joined the SAB remotely)
Members of the MCRC International Advisory Board with the Director of the MCRC. Left to right: Professor Pat LoRusso, Professor Bertrand Tombal, Professor Sheila Singh (chair of the IAB), Professor Robert Bristow, Professor Karen Knudsen, Professor Harry De Koning, and Professor David Jaffray. (Professor Daniel Zips joined the IAB remotely).
MCRC Director’s Lectures
I was delighted that, following the MCRC IAB, Professor Pat LoRusso agreed to deliver an engaging MCRC Director’s Lecture covering the development of oncology therapies. Pat is an international expert in drug development and early phase clinical research. Moreover, Pat is now President-Elect for 2023-2024 for the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) demonstrating the international recognition of her leadership.
During Pat’s Director’s Lecture, she took us through the journey of cancer therapeutics from the US’s declaration of the ‘war on cancer’ and the earliest cancer therapies, to today’s precision medicine targeted therapies.
We also hosted a second Director’s Lecture with Professor Richard Kennedy on the 17th November as part of a wider biomarker’s commercialisation workshop hosted by the Cancer Research Horizons team. Richard brings years of research working at Queens University Belfast and Almac Diagnostics and provided an excellent overview of the challenges and opportunities of developing commercially viable biomarkers. Richard illustrated the many challenges that come alongside biomarker development including navigating regulatory bodies, standardising processes for development and discovery, and protecting IP at the right time.
Celebrating the completion of Year One of our Kenya-Manchester Collaboration
On 22nd November, we held a celebration event to mark the first year of our Kenya-Manchester collaborative NIHR-funded Global Health Research project improving oesophageal cancer survival in Kenya through a Hub and Spoke model.
During our hybrid celebration, we were joined in Manchester by Professor F. George Njoroge, Chief Scientific Officer at Kenyatta University Teaching Referral and Research Hospital (KUTRRH) and Dr Mwirigi Kiula, Deputy Director of ICT and Innovation at KUTRRH alongside the Manchester research theme leads. We were joined remotely by our colleagues in Kenya representing KUTRRH and the five counties as well as individuals who were able to speak about their visits to Manchester during training sessions.
As Prof. David Wedge summarised during his talk summarising the ambitions of the third aim of the project, “Today marks the end of the beginning”. Major successes from the first year of the project were:
- Inter-cultural training and acclimating to our new colleagues across the globe.
- Upskilling of staff with pathologists and endoscopists through reciprocal visits to Kenya and Manchester.
- Building infrastructure and establishing governance structures.
- Local engagement through county community leads.
This past year has laid the foundations for the continued successful delivery of the project and I’m confident that in the coming months, we will see more important milestones reached including: the launch of our first pilot study in Meru county, continued public engagement and inter-county communications, and continued training including bioinformaticians during their visit in 2024.
In other developments from the MCRC
- Congratulations to Dr Kelechi Njoku who has been awarded the inaugural Eve Appeal Fellowship continuing his work investigating kinder tests to diagnose womb cancer. Kelechi recently completed a Clinical Research Training Fellowship and was recently appointed as an NIHR Academic Clinical Lecturer.
- I was also excited to attend our biomarker commercialisation workshop organised by Dr Nathalie Dhomen and Cancer Research Horizons. Across a full day of talks, our speakers covered various facets of cancer biomarker commercialisation including intellectual property (IP) and considerations for developing multimodal and software-based biomarkers. Additionally, we heard compelling case studies during two panel discussions — one with academics who have successfully commercialised biomarkers and another with industry partners sharing their perspectives and what they seek.
- I also attended the Enabling Research with Complex Technologies Workshop, organised through the CRUK RadNet network. During the workshop, discussion was mainly focused around spatial omics and how evolving technologies can be used within cancer research and challenges and opportunities for data analysis.
- In mid-November, I attended Gustave Roussy’s Scientific Advisory Board to provide input on their clinical academics and new basic research portfolio.
- I was also a speaker as part of the SAB for the NCI-funded Structural Biology of DNA Repair (SBDR) P01 team taking place at the Lawrence Berkeley Livermore labs consisting of the top DNA repair labs in the USA and Canada. I presented some of our BRCA2, ATM and MSH2 knockout models in primary prostate cells and active collaborations with the SBDR group will now take place using these unique models.
I hope everyone has a fantastic December and I look forward to updating you all again soon.
Professor Robert Bristow