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The University of Southampton

University cancer experts receive funding boost

Published: 24 January 2023
Medical image of pipette.

Scientists at the University of Southampton have received a major funding boost of up to £1.8million to support them in their fight against cancer.

The funding for the Southampton Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) will enable researchers to develop treatments of the future - including immunotherapies – as well as improving existing treatments.

The ECMC is made up of experts from the University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust who work together to provide patients with access to cutting-edge cancer treatments. Testing these treatments helps to establish new ways of detecting and monitoring the disease and to evaluate how it responds.

Southampton is part of a network of 17 ECMCs across the UK, funded by Cancer Research UK, which deliver clinical trials of promising new treatment. Since 2007, when the network was first established, around 30,000 patients have taken part in 2,100 trials.

Professor Andrew Davies
Professor Andrew Davies

Southampton ECMC lead, Professor Andrew Davies, said: “We are delighted Southampton has secured this funding. Clinical trials are crucial to new and improved treatments becoming adopted as standard treatments by the NHS and this funding will allow us to further advance how we can treat cancer effectively.

“Thousands of patients have been provided with access to life-saving drugs and therapies through the Southampton ECMC and this funding will benefit people with cancer across the South Coast region and beyond.”

Professor Diana Eccles, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton, said: “For more than 40 years, Southampton scientists have been at the forefront of cancer research, developing new treatments and running clinical trials, to ensure more people can be rid of this terrible disease.

“I am very proud that we have received this important funding that will enable us to continue our research at pace in the coming years.”

The funding has been made possible by a partnership between Cancer Research UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Research and the Little Princess Trust specifically for children’s cancers.

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 such as the drug tamoxifen, for which Cancer Research UK funded phase four clinical trials to validate it as an effective treatment for breast cancer.

Tamoxifen is now a mainstay treatment for people with oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer and appears on the World Health Organisation’s list of essential drugs for the disease.

As a result of tamoxifen, nearly two thirds of people diagnosed with breast cancer this decade are predicted to survive their disease for 20 years or more.

Executive Director of Research and Innovation at Cancer Research UK, Dr Iain Foulkes, said: “We are proud to be supporting an expansion of our successful ECMC network, bringing together vast medical and scientific expertise to translate the latest scientific discoveries from the lab into the clinic.

"The ECMC network is delivering the cancer treatments of the future, bringing new hope to people affected by cancer. The trials taking place today will give the next generation the best possible chance of beating cancer.

“The adult and paediatric ECMC networks will offer clinical trials for many different types of cancer. Researchers will be working to find new treatments and tackle the unique challenges presented by cancers in children and young people. Working with our partners, this new funding will bring hope for more effective, personalised therapies for everyone affected by cancer.”

Chief Executive of the Little Princess Trust, Phil Brace, said: “Cancer remains the leading cause of death amongst children and young people, and we must change that. 

“Since 2016, The Little Princess Trust has been funding research with the aim to offer more targeted and less toxic treatments for children and young people with cancer. We’ve made some good progress, but we want to do so much more. 

“We will achieve so much more for children and young people by working together. We’re delighted to be joining forces with Cancer Research UK and NIHR to expand funding for the paediatric ECMC network.”

Chief Executive of the NIHR, Professor Lucy Chappell, said: “The ECMC Network is a vital strategic investment in the UK’s cancer research community, bringing together top scientists and clinicians to tackle some of the biggest scientific challenges in cancer and improve outcomes for patients.

“Through this route, we enable more people to join trials that could help them. The ECMC Network will give access to brand new experimental treatments for patients, including children and young people, paving the way for these treatments to be used in the clinic one day. This is a crucial part of NIHR’s work, and enables more people to join trials that might help them. We are proud to be partnering with Cancer Research UK and the Little Princess Trust in funding this network.

“The UK has considerable strengths in cancer research. We will continue to back life-saving research for the thousands of adult and children patients affected by cancer every year.”

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