MCRC Director’s Update – September 2022

Professor Robert Bristow in his office in the OCRB

Hello everyone and welcome to full-on academic activities and competitive renewals for Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) and other elements within the MCRC and its partners.


Like many, during August I was able to take much needed couple of weeks off to rest up ahead before the return of academic conferences and programming following the COVID-19 pandemic. This month has seen a hive of activity across the MCRC, seeing the launch of our new podcast, our Director’s Lecture and Training event, and attending multiple conferences across the UK and Europe.


World Cancer Research Day 2022

Saturday 24th September marked World Cancer Research Day. This year’s theme was about supporting research to prevent cancer and catch it sooner – key themes for us in Manchester. We marked this with the launch of our new Podcast series (more on that later), but I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for the depth and breadth of research that is taking place across Manchester despite the pandemic slow-down. Whether you are a PhD student, a postdoctoral researcher, an academic investigator or a valued member of our professional services team, excellence and impact in research is everyone’s business. The translational research teams within Manchester have had a profound impact on early detection and precision medicine at international level.  It’s important that we continue to recognise and celebrate these successes, so please let the MCRC team know about your research achievements!

Prof. Petra Hamerlik Joins the MCRC


I’m very pleased that as of the start of the month, Professor Petra Hamerlik has joined the University of Manchester and MCRC as Chair of Neuro-Oncology. I’m particularly excited about her joining the growing neuro-oncology research programme here in Manchester and bringing her expertise in pre-clinical modelling and biomarker approaches.

Over the past two years, neuro-oncology has continued to grow from strength to strength in Manchester. In 2021, the Geoffrey Jefferson Brain Research Centre was established with specific themes to accelerate neuro-oncology. In the same year, The Christie and Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust (now Northern Care Alliance) were named as a Tessa Jowell Centre of Excellence. I’m excited to see now how Professor Hamerlik will work to leverage the teams and infrastructure across Manchester with the ultimate aim of identifying new treatments for patients with brain tumours.


Petra Hamerlik Headshot

One in Two: A Manchester Cancer Research Podcast

This World Cancer Research Day, we launched our brand-new podcast hosted by our own Science Writer and Communications Assistant – Sally Best. I’m very excited about this new platform as it gives our audience an opportunity to hear directly from our researchers who can speak about their academic achievements, passions, and most importantly, their scientific and clinical scientific innovations.

The first season of MCRC podcast content focuses on Innovations in Early Detection and will feature topics including health inequalities, screening, health economics and advanced materials. The first season is currently rolling out and at the time of writing, episode one is now available with episode two available on Monday 3rd October 2022. Stay tuned for a new episode every Monday over the next seven weeks.

One in Two a Manchester Cancer Research Podcast

I’d strongly encourage everyone to listen to cancer research power couple Professors Phil and Emma Crosbie speak about health inequalities in the community and the lung and cervical cancer interventions that are being rolled out in the form of the Lung Health Check and the MoPEDs trial. Listen now to Health Inequalities: does going directly to the community improve screening uptake? on Spotify, Apple Music and the MCRC YouTube Channel.


Robert Tillman Director’s Lecture and Training the Next-Generation of Cancer Leaders


This month we also hosted Dr Robert Tillman from Baylor College of Medicine who presented at our Training the Next Generation of Cancer Leaders education event at the beginning of September. Over two days which concentrated on both non-clinical and clinical trainees, he gave insights into his own career path and provided a thought-provoking summary of the current trajectory for training our next generation of cancer leaders.

Leadership, coaching and mentorship were key themes discussed throughout his lecture and how academic teams can be structured to allow autonomy and empower individuals to achieve their potential. His national US leadership in this area was supported by “before and after” metrics showing the impact on mentoring within and between individual career pathways. One of my key takeaways from his talk was the advice he had for individuals looking to progress in their career: think about your Values, your Interests and your Skills and do they match the job that you’re looking at?


As one of the most prestigious meetings for clinical research impact, congratulations to these researchers who presented oral discussions and posters for underpinning the international MCRC brand.

Professor Robert Bristow

Excellence at European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO), Paris


At the recent ESMO conference (10th-13th September), several of our researchers were invited to present the latest research in both oral and poster presentations from Manchester including:


  • Fiona Thistlethwaite speaking about “New avenues for CAR technology”,
  • Fiona Blackhall speaking about the current and future perspectives of small cell lung cancer with a focus on immunotherapy
  • Leanna Goodwin speaking about “A public involvement process to enhance diversity in technology clinical trials” as part of the eHealth session

Dr Rille Pihlak providing insight at the clinical practice guidelines session on “Cancer of Unknown Primary site (CUP): Clinical case”

  • Dr Tim Smith speaking about “Hypoxic bladder cancers have a poorer outcome following hypofractionated vs conventionally fractionated radiotherapy in the BC2001 and BCON randomised trials”
  • Dr Becki Lee presenting research on minimal residual disease in melanoma.
  • Jorge Barriuso, who joined the debate in the Young Oncologist session arguing as contra to Medical oncology in 21st century: General or cancer type specialist?
  • Alison Sanneh speaking about “An oncology digital placement: preparing the nursing workforce in community care”
  • Juan Valle who spoke about “The challenges associated with diagnosing intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma for targeted therapies”
  • Richard Marais providng the basic scientist’s perspective at the Molecular tumor boards: Challenges in identifying personalised treatments for melanoma patients


As one of the most prestigious meetings for clinical research impact, congratulations to these researchers who presented oral discussions and posters for underpinning the international MCRC brand.


Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)-QQR Defence


The ECMC team defended their programme in the national CRUK QQR competition on September 28 2022  (Team leads: Dr Natalie Cook and Professor Caroline Dive with team members Professor Tim Somervaille, Professor Fiona Thistlethwaite and Dr Matthew Krebs). The vision for the Manchester ECMC included the integration of adult and paediatric trials with biomarker-driven precision, digital technologies, novel advanced cell therapies with new trials and impact within our highly diverse GM patient populations. We wish the team all the best for a successful renewal.


Other developments from the MCRC


  • For everyone who works for The University of Manchester and Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, you will have received an invite to complete the Staff Survey. The University has kindly agreed to donate £1 for every completed survey to Re-Write Cancer and so every completed survey will directly benefit us all doing cancer research. So, if you’ve been wondering how you can help, now’s your chance. Complete your Staff Survey and support cancer research in Manchester.
  • Early in September I was in Oslo at the Norwegian Cancer Society Prostate Cancer Symposium presenting our CRUK MI- and RadNet-funded work on spatial ‘omics and tumour.
  • And finally, at the time of publishing this update, I’ll be in Greece for the International Conference on Tumour Microenvironment & Cellular Stress: Signalling, Metabolism, Imaging and Therapeutic Targets where I’ll be speaking on the clonal evolution of genetically-unstable tumour cells within differential tumour micro-environments.


Autumn 2022 is shaping up to be a busy couple of months with several key events taking place, including Cancer Research UK Trustees visiting Manchester at the start of the month where we will present the MCRC and CRUK MI assets and give the Trustees a tour of the new Paterson rebuild.

This month will also contain the Black in Cancer Conference in London mid-October, our ACED team attending the Early Detection Conference in Portland, Oregon, and finally, research topics presented at the Greater Manchester Cancer Conference.


October also looks to be an active month and I look forward to updating you on further MCRC impact stories next month.




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