Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
Southampton Clinical Trials UnitNews

World Cancer Day - Celebrating 20 years of clinical trials

Published: 4 February 2022
Prof Gareth Griffiths
Professor Gareth Griffiths outside the CCI Building

This World Cancer Day (4th February) marks 20 years since Cancer Research UK (CRUK) was formed. Our Director, Professor Gareth Griffiths, reflects on the past two decades of cancer clinical trials, the advances made in cancer research, and what it means to be a CRUK-funded trials unit.

When Cancer Research UK was formed 20 years ago, Professor Gareth Griffiths was already the scientific lead and senior medical statistician at the Medical Research Council’s Clinical Trials Unit.

In fact, Professor Griffiths has spent his whole career in cancer clinical trial research, later founding the Cancer Research UK Wales Cancer Trials Unit in 2005, and since 2014 he has been the director of the Cancer Research UK Southampton Clinical Trials Unit which now has a large portfolio of cancer trials.

“Over the past 20 years we have seen huge advances in cancer diagnosis and treatments, thanks to research,” says Gareth. “And this just would not be possible without the funding we receive from Cancer Research UK and their supporters which allows trials units like ours to run the clinical studies which can bring new and better treatments to cancer patients.

“A particular area that we have seen a huge growth in is immunotherapy treatments that can boost the body’s own immune system to enable it to fight cancer. These mean that many patients, whose cancer would previously not have been treatable, are being offered alternative options that can not only potentially improve survival but also give them a better quality of life during treatment.

“Our unit is based within the Centre for Cancer Immunology at the University of Southampton, which means we are working alongside brilliant lab-based researchers who are continuously increasing our knowledge of how the immune system works and looking at new potential targets to use immunotherapy to fight cancer.

“In October last year, we published the results of the Cancer Research UK funded CONFIRM trial which was the first study to show that the immunotherapy nivolumab improved survival for people with malignant mesothelioma which has returned after initial chemotherapy treatment. This study has led to updated guidance on the treatment of this disease and a real benefit for our patients.”

Gareth leads a team of trial experts at the Southampton Clinical Trials Unit who work with researchers and cancer clinicians from Southampton, as well as across the UK and internationally, to design, conduct and analyse a large portfolio of cancer trials.

“Another huge area of growth has been personalised medicine,” continues Gareth. “Research in this field has meant that oncologists are now able to look at specific genetic markers or characteristics of a person’s individual cancer and tailor treatments to them as an individual, which are therefore more likely to be effective.

“And here at the Southampton Clinical Trials Unit, as in many other research centres, improving early diagnosis is also a key priority. Trials like our iDx Lung study, which is aiming to improve the detection of lung cancer, will hopefully mean more people are diagnosed when their cancer is at an early stage and is therefore more treatable, ultimately saving lives in the future.”

Gareth and his team are joining with many other researchers, patients and supporters to ask people to unite on World Cancer Day and support Cancer Research UK’s fundraising.

“Our trials unit receives core funding from Cancer Research UK which enables us to continuously develop new trial ideas for clinical trials with the aim of finding new treatments that will benefit our patient community, or ways to diagnosis cancer earlier so we have a greater chance to cure cancer.

“It is only via the fundraising, donations and charity shop income to Cancer Research UK by the community which enables many of our cancer trials to take place. The work of the charity over the last 20 years has been instrumental to funding ground-breaking and innovative research and clinical trials that have directly led to advances in cancer treatments, and we are extremely grateful for their continued support.”



Over the past 20 years we have seen huge advances in cancer diagnosis and treatments, thanks to research.

Professor Gareth Griffiths - Director, CRUK Southampton Clinical Trials Unit
Sarah-Jane Bibby
Sarah-Jane Bibby

“Cancer is such a cruel disease which I have witnessed first-hand, having lost two close family members. I am delighted to be working on cancer trials like BL-13. It is amazing to be doing research into something which affects so many people and which will help inform how we treat patients in the future.”

Sarah-Jane Bibby is the trial manager for the BL-13 trial which is looking at using an immunotherapy treatment for patients with bladder cancer.

Find out more about BL-13 here.


Aya Khalil
Aya Khalil

"We can all imagine how hard it is to experience cancer, but you can only understand it when you've been through it. I would like to use World Cancer Day to support and pay tribute to all patients currently undergoing treatment, survivors, caregivers and anyone who is taking part in advancing cancer treatments to make the journey less painful and more bearable”

Aya is a trial coordinator at the Southampton Clinical Trials Unit. She is supporting World Cancer Day after seeing a family member go through cancer treatment.


Tracey Mason
Tracey Mason

“It is so rewarding to work in a job that can help change clinical practice and hopefully give future cancer patients better treatment options.”

Tracey is a trial manager in our lymphoma team, working with researchers, patient and public contributors, and other staff at the SCTU to conduct clinical trials of potential new cancer treatments.

Tracey is currently managing the ARGO trial, which you can read more about here, and a new trial that is currently in set-up called Pola-R-ICE.


Ben Lindfield
Ben Lindfield

“Cancer affects us all in some capacity and the participation of patients on our trials at the SCTU, is central to the advancement of cancer treatments. mWorld Cancer Day reminds us of the importance of research and the involvement of patients, in the ongoing fight against cancer.”

Ben Lindfield is a trial coordinator working on clinical trials to find new treatments for lymphoma, and is thanking the amazing people who agree to take part in our trials, and our patient and public involvement (PPI) contributors.


Anna Song
Anna Song

“World Cancer Day is like a coin, it comes with two sides. One side being the memory of cancer destroying so many lives, but the other side being a celebration of the progress of cancer treatment and a ‘hallelujah’ to the cancer survivors.

“I’m so proud to work with cancer research and being able to celebrate more survivors each year.”

Anna Song is a Senior Trial Manager at the Southampton Clinical Trials Unit.


Privacy Settings