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Southampton Clinical Trials UnitNews

Multi-million pound funding boost in the search for new cancer treatments

Published: 19 May 2023
SCTU staff

The search for new cancer treatments has been given a multi-million-pound boost as Cancer Research UK invests in the next five years of research at the Southampton Clinical Trials Unit (SCTU).

Ahead of International Clinical Trials Day (May 20th), Cancer Research UK has announced it is to invest £5.5m at the SCTU to run world-leading trials which test new cancer treatments and help find ways to diagnose the disease at an earlier stage.

The Southampton Clinical Trials Unit, based at Southampton General Hospital, comprises a team of expert clinical trialists who work with doctors, scientists and patient representatives across the UK. Together they design, run and evaluate trials of new treatments, medical interventions and diagnostic tools to create the evidence that they should be standard of care for future patients in the NHS.    

Director of the Southampton Clinical Trials Unit, Prof Gareth Griffiths said: 

“Clinical trials are a vital part of bringing new treatments to patients and detecting cancer earlier.

“We already have a huge amount of expertise in running complex clinical trials, including first-in-human trials of new treatments, large-scale trials testing the latest drugs against current standard of care treatment, and trialling new ways to detect cancer at an early stage when it is more treatable and patients are more likely to survive. 

“We look very closely at the cancer samples of our clinical trial patients in the laboratory to understand how, why and which patients benefit the most from the treatments, which helps us to design the next clinical trials where treatments are personalised for the patient.     

“This funding will allow us to expand our ground-breaking work into more cancer types, facilitate new treatment trials and ways to diagnosis cancer earlier for patients in and across the UK.” 


Practice-changing trials

Over the last five years of CRUK funding, the Southampton Clinical Trials Unit, which is co-hosted by the University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, has overseen many trials, some of which have led to practice-changing results.

In 2021, the results of the CONFIRM trial showed that an immunotherapy drug was beneficial for patients with mesothelioma - an aggressive and incurable cancer often linked to breathing in asbestos. It was the first trial of its kind to show an improved outcome for these patients when first-line chemotherapy had not been successful and is now being offered to patients in the NHS.

The ProCAID trial showed that adding a targeted cancer drug to chemotherapy treatment can improve survival for patients with advanced prostate cancer.

Patient Ivan Symonds, from Southsea, who took part in the study said: “I realise the importance of research. It’s absolutely vital, we’ve got to keep researching.”

The retired engineer, 84, was diagnosed in 2012 after going to the GP with concerns about his health.

He said: “I had in my mind that there was a problem, so when they told me I had cancer and explained what was involved to treat it, I’d come to the conclusion that I had to have it done and that’s it.”

Ivan was initially given standard treatment, but when this stopped working, he was invited to take part in the Cancer Research UK supported trial at University Hospital Southampton.

Ivan said: “Nature was taking me over and the cancer was growing again and that’s when Dr Simon Crabb said there was a trial and asked if I was prepared to take part in it. I said, ‘Yes of course I am, I want to survive.’ So, I signed up for the trial. It worked for me and will hopefully benefit other patients in the future.

“I take my hat off to the researchers and the clinical trial teams. Trials like ProCAID are vital to add to the science of cancer treatment and are therefore incredibly important to patients like me.” 


The long-term results of another trial that was run by the Southampton Clinical Trials Unit for people with an aggressive form of lymphoma were recently presented at an international conference and again showed improved outcomes for some groups of patients.

Both ProCAID and the lymphoma studies have led to larger trials that could lead to new and better treatment being given to future patients in the NHS.   

Meanwhile, an award-winning collaboration between the Southampton Clinical Trials Unit, the Southampton Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre, the NHS Lung Health Checks and industry partners in a 7000 participants study, is close to completion. The iDx Lung study is testing new ways to diagnose lung cancer in its early stages and will provide insights into whether a simple blood test could allow doctors to detect lung cancer early and therefore increase the effectiveness of treatments.    


Finding the treatments of the future

One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer within our lifetimes so finding new effective treatments is vital. *

Cancer Research UK has been integral in aiding the discovery of many new cancer treatments. 

Executive Director of Research and Innovation at Cancer Research UK, Dr Iain Foulkes, said:  “We are delighted to announce funding for the Southampton Clinical Trials Unit (SCTU) in Southampton, bringing together vast medical and scientific expertise to translate the latest scientific discoveries from the lab into the clinic.   

"The unit is already helping to find the cancer treatments of the future, proving opportunities for patients around the UK to participate in research and advance progress. Trials taking place now are not only helping patients today but are providing the best possible chance of beating cancer for the next generation as well.” 

Vice President (research and enterprise) at the University of Southampton, Professor Mark Spearing said: “Southampton has a long history of bringing cancer research out of the laboratory and into the clinic, improving the way patients are treated across the UK. Clinical trials are a vital part of this research process. 

“We are proud to receive this new funding, which is a testament to the ground-breaking work taking place with our partners and will enable us to increase our research capacity and capability in the coming years.” 


Notes for editors

* Based on Ahmad AS, Ormiston-Smith N, Sasieni PD. Trends in the lifetime risk of developing cancer in Great Britain: Comparison of risk for those born in 1930 to 1960(link is external).  Br J Cancer 2015;bjc.2014:606.      


About the Southampton Clinical Trials Unit (SCTU): 

The SCTU is a Cancer Research UK core funded CTU with expertise in the design, conduct and analysis of multicentre, interventional clinical trials. The CTU is based within University of Southampton with offices within the Centre for Cancer Immunology on the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust Southampton General Hospital site. 

SCTU works closely with doctors, scientists and patient representatives to develop and conduct clinical trials and other well designed studies that will be run across the NHS in the UK. Creating evidence for better treatments for our future NHS patients.    

Visit the SCTU website.  


About Cancer Research UK

·         Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research, influence and information. 

·         Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.  

·         Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last 40 years.  

·         Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK wants to accelerate progress and see 3 in 4 people surviving their cancer by 2034. 

·         Cancer Research UK supports research into the prevention and treatment of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses. 

·         Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK is working towards a world where people can live longer, better lives, free from the fear of cancer.

For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit Follow us on Twitter and Facebook. 


About International Clinical Trials Day

International Clinical Trials Day celebrates the anniversary of what became known as the first clinical trial by James Lind in 1747, when he investigated the causes of scurvy on board HMS Salisbury. On May 20 each year, the clinical research community unites globally to reflect, recognise and admire the achievements clinical trials have contributed to and the people behind them. The date gives research organisations, clinical research professionals and the public the opportunity to discuss developments of new medicines, tests and therapies that allow people to live healthier, longer lives.  

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