Division of Cancer Sciences

Overview

The Division of Cancer Sciences provides a focus for cancer research activity within the Faculty of Biology Medicine and Health. It combines an internationally leading academic reputation with the largest clinical cancer service in the UK.

The Division is based at both The Christie hospital site and The University of Manchester campus.

Our work is fully integrated with the Manchester Cancer Research Centre (MCRC) and its partners:

We also work closely with partners within the Manchester Academic Health Sciences Centre (MAHSC):

Our research

Our research covers many aspects of cancer biology and biomarker discovery, pathology, imaging, and cancer treatment including experimental therapeutics, immunotherapy and radiotherapy.

Discovery research 

Our scientists carry out fundamental research into clinically relevant aspects of cancer biology across a wide variety of cancer types. These include: melanoma, breast cancer, prostate cancer, haematological malignancies, pancreatic cancer and ovarian cancer.

With easy access to clinical samples, we are able to develop patient-relevant tumour models and rapidly translate laboratory findings into better cancer treatments.

Led by: Professor Claudia Wellbrock

Experimental cancer therapeutics

Manchester is home to an Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) and part of the national ECMC Network.

We conduct early phase clinical trials in a dedicated unit with close links to translational laboratories. Early phase clinical trials are essential for the introduction of new and innovative cancer treatments into the clinic.

Our aim is to offer access to novel therapies for patients at all stages of treatment and to be a leader in molecular profiling, implementing biomarker-led stratified phase 1 trials.

Led by: Professor Andrew Hughes

Radiotherapy related research

Led by: Professor Catharine West and Professor Ran Mackay

Our research is focused around five groupings.

Translational radiobiology group

The challenge for radiotherapy-related research is to find ways of giving as much radiation as possible to kill cancer cells while minimising the dose received by surrounding healthy tissue.

The genomic revolution - sequencing of the human genome and developments in high throughput technology - heralds a future of personalised medicine. For radiotherapy, this progress should increase the possibility of predicting individual patient response to radiotherapy.

Our research explores the characterisation of molecular profiles that reflect relevant biological phenotypes and predict tumour and normal tissue response to radiation, with a particular focus on radiosensitivity and hypoxia.

Led by: Professor Catharine West and Dr Ananya Choudhury

Targeted therapy group

In order to further improve cancer outcomes using radiotherapy, we need an increased understanding of what determines effective radiation-induced anti-tumour responses and how best to combine radiotherapy with others treatments.

Our research programme evaluates the contribution of radiation-induced immunogenic cell death to the induction of tumour-specific immune responses and determines how best to integrate radiotherapy with immunomodulatory agents to augment such responses and enhance therapeutic outcome.

The pre-clinical experimental programme runs in parallel with early phase clinical trials, informing further clinical trial design of radiotherapy and immunotherapy combinations using these novel approaches to improve outcome for cancer patients.

Led by: Professor Tim Illidge

Proton therapy group - PRECISE

Proton Beam Therapy (PBT) is a form of radiotherapy. It has the potential to improve the precision and targeting of treatment by increasing the dose to the tumour while reducing that to the surrounding healthy tissue. This could lead to fewer side effects, faster recovery and better outcomes and quality of life for patients.

The £125m NHS high-energy PBT centre at The Christie will start treating patients in 2018 and has a dedicated research facility.

PRECISE (Proton REsearch at the Christie and dIvision of cancer SciEnces) uses a highly multidisciplinary approach. Working in collaboration with other groups, we address the main research challenges in PBT:

  • optimising the biological effectiveness; 
  • range verification and proton stopping powers; 
  • improving PBT imaging and integrating these into probabilistic treatment plans; 
  • big data, outcomes and patient selection; 
  • PBT-immunotherapy combinations.

Led by: Professor Karen Kirkby

Advanced radiotherapy

Developments in radiotherapy allow us to target tumours more accurately than ever before. Greater accuracy means that fewer healthy cells are damaged, which in turn means that higher tumour doses can be given, making treatment more effective and, sometimes, shorter.

We have long contributed to the introduction of image-guided and intensity modulated radiotherapy into routine clinical practice. Our researchers continue to study and improve the accuracy of image guidance and are now part of an international consortium to implement MR-guided radiotherapy, focusing on efficient adaptive radiotherapy workflows.

Our treatment planning group is developing probabilistic planning, taking uncertainties explicitly into account in the plan optimisation process, and implementing our techniques in a research version of a clinical treatment planning system.

We are also undertaking large scale, image based data mining. We aim to learn from previous treatments to help inform the best way to treat future patients.

Led by: Professor Marcel Van Herk

Theragnostics

Theragnostics aims to use the large amounts of diagnostic, radiotherapy planning and outcome data now available. It will exploit the data by using new developments in data mining and web technologies to extract information that can be used to predict and personalise radiotherapy treatments.

Led by: Professor Corinne Faivre-Finn

Paediatric, teenage and young adult cancer

Our research aims to better understand the genetics and biology underlying childhood brain tumours, leukaemia, and inherited cancer predisposition.

We are investigating mechanisms of drug resistance and exploring novel therapeutic approaches to childhood leukaemia and solid tumours, including targeted therapies and immunotherapy.

Alongside this, we carry out studies into the personal, psychological and social challenges faced by young people with cancer.

Led by: Dr Guy Makin

Prevention and early detection 

In cancer prevention we have strong interests in obesity-related cancers and preventive strategies in chemoprevention, dietary and weight reduction interventions, and vaccinations.

We have a wide range of internationally leading researchers across the six domains of the ‘Manchester Wheel’ of early detection research. There is particular focus on biomarker development, risk stratification and screening.

Prevention and early detection (PED) research integrates with the PED theme in the NIHR Manchester BRC.

Led by: Professor Andrew Renehan

Ovarian cancer 

Ovarian cancer is typically diagnosed at an advanced stage. This makes it the most deadly of gynaecological cancers.

Our research into ovarian cancer ranges from fundamental laboratory studies to large clinical trials. Discovery scientists and clinician-scientists within this area are exploring various aspects of ovarian cancer biology, including angiogenesis, DNA damage repair pathways, protein ubiquitination, mitosis and apoptosis. Our researchers are also developing proteomic approaches towards risk stratification.

To create patient-relevant models, we have established a biopsy pipeline and methodology to establish ex vivo cultures suitable for high resolution cell biology studies and in vitro drug sensitivity profiling. Our vision is that these patient avatars will allow us to better deliver personalised treatments for ovarian cancer patients.

Led by: Professor Stephen Taylor

Breast cancer 

Our clinician-scientists are interested in biomarkers to determine risk of breast cancer, and in testing novel chemo-preventative agents.

Our scientists are exploring basic breast biology to discover basic mechanisms regulating normal tissue development and to identify early changes that lead to increased breast cancer risk. In addition, studies are ongoing to better understand the mechanisms underlying metastatic spread.

We have an exceptionally strong and successful trials team, experienced in all phases of drug treatment and surgical studies. The team collaborates extensively with industry to ensure that the most promising novel therapies are made available to the Greater Manchester population.

Research into breast cancer in Manchester is coordinated through the Manchester Breast Centre.

Led by: Dr Rob Clarke

Prostate cancer

Haematological oncology

We aim to improve the survival and quality of life for people with leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma. We do this by developing new and better treatments and diagnostic tools for patients with these life-threatening illnesses.

Important work is underway within our laboratories to better understand the way in which leukaemia stem cells grow and acquire resistance. This will enable more effective treatments to be developed.

We are making a major effort to understand and improve antibody therapies for lymphoma and examining these tumours at a molecular level.

We have led national trials investigating the role of PET imaging in early stage Hodgkin lymphoma and played a pivotal role in the early development of a new antibody-drug conjugate in certain types of lymphoma resistant to conventional treatments.

In addition, we have led a series of important studies investigating radioimmunotherapy in follicular lymphoma. We are also concerned by the late toxicity of some treatments and have undertaken studies describing these in large populations of survivors.

Our efforts are now focused on reducing the impact of these 'late effects', such as second cancers and heart disease that could undermine the quality of life and survival of patients cured of haematological cancer.

Led by: Professor John Radford

Hepato-biliary and pancreatic cancer 

Led by: Professor Juan Valle

Lung cancer 

We carry out clinical trials of novel therapeutic approaches, including precision medicines and radiotherapy.

Our research has led to new, improved standards of care in the treatment of advanced, metastatic small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

We are part of the Cancer Research UK Lung Cancer Centre of Excellence.

Led by: Professor Fiona Blackhall and Professor Caroline Dive

 

Head of Division

Professor Tim Illidge

Our researchers

See a list of researchers in the Division

Contact

Kerry Burke, Divisional Operations Manager
email: kerry.burke@manchester.ac.uk

Related areas

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