Register for the RCPath & CM-Path event: ‘A Pathologist’s Guide to Research and Clinical Trials’

The Royal College of Pathologists (RCPath) is hosting this new conference with the NCRI initiative, CM-Path (cellular molecular pathology initiative). The event will take place in London on Friday 9 December. The event is aimed at trainee and consultant pathologists that would like to get involved or are already involved in clinical trials, and will cover topics such as:

  • The strategic importance of pathology in clinical trials
  • Using tissue in clinical trials – rules and regulations, storage and access
  • Pathology-based testing of tissues in clinical trials – performance, standardisation and quality control
  • Funding opportunities for clinical trial pathologists

» For further information, download a flyer here (PDF)

» Click here to register (External website)

NCRI Newsletter, Issue 7 2016

Showcase your research: late breaking abstract submission opens 1 August; Highlights from the 2016 NCRI Summer Meeting; Our 2015/16 Annual Review is out now; Welcome to NCRI’s new Cancer Liaison Manager; NCRI Future of Surgery workshop report now available; Register for the NCRI Upper GI CSG trials meeting; NIHR CREST Award 2016 now open for nominations; CRUK appoints new chief scientist; RCLF supports commission of study on the state of lung cancer research; Project grant applications in childhood and TYA cancers now; Welsh Government calls for researchers’ responses to EU clinical trials consultation; New Director for the Northern Ireland Clinical Research Network; CRUK publishes 2015/16 Annual Review; Report from the National Data Guardian for Health and Care now published; New resources on public investment in research from HRA

60 second interview with NCRI’s new Cancer Liaison Manager

Rupesh_Vyas_headshotRupesh Robinson-Vyas recently joined NCRI as our new Public Health England (PHE)/NCRI Cancer Liaison Manager. Working between teams at the National Cancer Registration and Analytics Service (NCRAS) and the cancer research community, he’s hoping to encourage greater access to routinely collected NHS data. Here, he tells us a little bit more about what his new role involves, what he’s looking forward to and how you could help.

What will you be doing as PHE/NCRI Cancer Liaison Manager?

NCRAS routinely collects and analyses data on every cancer patient across England. My job will be to tap into NCRI’s vast cancer research network to understand how patient data is being collected and used to enable their lifesaving research. Then, working with colleagues in NCRAS, we hope to come up with creative, sustainable and less burdensome methods of supplying their routinely collected, population-wide data to fuel the next generation of cancer discoveries.

We’ve already had some early suggestions on how to use the data held by NCRAS. For example, it could be useful for long-term follow up of clinical trial patients, for conducting large observational cohort studies or investigating feasibility for studies with more complex inclusion criteria.

What do you think will be the biggest challenge?

There are plenty of challenges ahead but the biggest will be finding consistent, sustainable and wherever possible, repeatable solutions. We need to develop processes that allow us to meet the specific needs of a study without having to start from scratch each time. This means doing a lot more work and thorough scoping at the start so progress will feel painstakingly slow in the beginning. However, once we crack it, we’ll have something that continues to work long into the future.

What did you used to do before joining NCRI?

I worked on the Citizen Science Programme. Working within a tight-knit, multidisciplinary team I developed digital platforms and trained members of the public to conduct image analysis for biomedical research. With the help of the general public, we worked to tackle data backlogs and get researchers the information they needed. It was a fantastically innovative way of tackling researchers’ needs while also getting the public more informed and actively involved with research.

You mentioned public involvement in your previous role. How important is patient and public involvement in what you’ll be doing now?

It’s crucial. Data protection and confidentiality are of the utmost importance and past events have shown how important it is that people are fully informed of how patient data is being used, the safeguards being put in place to protect them and the benefits of sharing this information for research and in guiding improvements to health and health care.

What are you looking forward to in your new role?

I’m looking forward to speaking to the broad range of people that feed their expertise into both NCRI and NCRAS. My previous role required me to speak to experts across the fields of pathology, electron microscopy and games development. I really enjoyed pulling ideas together from people with such varied backgrounds. I am keen to be contacted by anyone who might have an idea or interest in working with the data held by NCRAS or just in finding out more.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Despite only having a small, north facing balcony four stories up, I’m an avid gardener (or blaconyer?) with mixed success. I’m also dangerously addicted to far too spicy food and 1940-50’s film noir movies.

Get in touch

If you are interested in working with the data held by NCRAS or want to find out more, you can get in touch with Rupesh by clicking the link below

» Email Rupesh Robinson-Vyas , NCRI Cancer Liaison Manager


A triumph for collaboration in radiotherapy research: landmark paper published by NCRI CTRad Working Group

CTRad logoAn NCRI CTRad Working Group has published a landmark paper in Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology setting out consensus recommendations to increase the number of novel drugs being successfully used in combination with radiotherapy to improve clinical outcomes for patients with cancer.

Radiotherapy is one of the most potent and cost effective treatments for cancer and technical advances over the past decade have heralded improvements in tumour control and toxicity. Using traditional chemotherapy in combination with radiotherapy has been an established form of cancer therapy for many years, however there has been little progress in exploring the potential of combining newer, targeted systemic cancer therapies with radiotherapy to improve cancer treatments.

The consensus recommendations are the first ever to be published on this topic that represent a broad base of expert opinion – spanning academia and pharma.

» Read the consensus recommendations in Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology (open access)

Nicola Keat, Head of NCRI’s Clinical Research Groups said, “The consensus paper represents the opinion of over 30 experts in the fields of radiotherapy, drug development and cancer research on overcoming barriers to clinical research using novel drug-radiotherapy combinations. Not only is it an important step forward for future research and development in this area, it also represents the power of collaboration across a diverse set of stakeholders – which is something the NCRI works to harness throughout the UK cancer research community.”

The authors of the paper hope that these recommendations will pave the way for an increase in the number of novel drugs being successfully registered in combination with radiotherapy. By providing the guidelines to overcome common challenges to performing research in this area, they seek to encourage the research community to consider drug-radiotherapy combinations as early as possible during the development process and to promote early dialogue between academia, regulators and industry.

» For insight and comment around the recommendations set out in the paper, see Cancer Research UK’s blog

Bringing the research community together to make progress: how the consensus recommendations came to be

In 2014 NCRI CTRad held a workshop with over 30 expert representatives from academia, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, patient groups and regulatory bodies, to identify both barriers and solutions to increasing the number of clinical trials using drug-radiotherapy combinations. The attendees of the workshop formed a Working Group – the NCRI CTRad Academia Partnership Working Group – to take forward action in this area. In 2015 the Working Group came together to further define the areas previously discussed and to develop a set of balanced and evidence-based consensus recommendations that will enable the research, regulatory and biotechnology and pharmaceutical communities to collaborate on research using novel drug-radiotherapy combinations.

About NCRI CTRad

NCRI runs an evolving programme of initiatives to address research gaps or barriers and capitalise on scientific opportunities that are too large or complex to be taken forward by one organisation alone. One of these strands of work is in radiotherapy and is known as NCRI’s Clinical and Translational Radiotherapy Research Working Group (CTRad). Established in 2009, CTRad is a working group that brings together many research specialities to shape and grow the national radiotherapy research agenda through developing high-quality research, developing infrastructure and exploiting opportunities. CTRad is funded by a subset of NCRI Partners: Cancer Research UK, Medical Research Council, Department of Health, Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates (Chief Scientist Office), Welsh Assembly Government (Health and Care Research Wales) and Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Public Health Agency (Research & Development Department).

» Find out more about NCRI’s CTRad (NCRI webpage)

Celebrating International Clinical Trials Day

International Clinical Trials Day is held on 20 May each year to commemorate the day that James Lind, the famous 18th century Scottish physician, began his trials into the causes of scurvy. To mark the occasion we spoke with Dr Alex Freeman and Dr Meriel Jenney about our work in supporting clinical research in our latest 60 second interviews.

» Interview with Dr Alex Freeman, lead of the Clinical Trials workstream for NCRI’s Cellular Molecular Pathology (CM-Path) initiative

» Interview with Dr Meriel Jenney, Chair of the NCRI Children’s Cancer & Leukaemia Clinical Studies Group

60 second interview with Dr Meriel Jenney

Dr Meriel JenneyTo mark International Clinical Trials Day this year we speak to Dr Meriel Jenney, Chair of the NCRI Children’s Cancer & Leukaemia (CCL) Clinical Studies Group (CSG), and ask her about the importance of clinical research for childhood cancers and how partnership working and collaborations (both across the UK and internationally) are vital to ensure high-quality research.

How did you get in to clinical cancer research?

As a paediatric oncologist, clinical cancer research has always been part of my day-to-day work. Children’s cancers are rare and therefore paediatric oncologists need to work together to answer clinical research questions and try to improve treatments.

How has collaborative working  progressed during your career?

As the speciality of children’s cancer developed there were early trials with colleagues collaborating across the UK, exploring different treatment approaches for a variety of childhood leukaemias and other solid tumours. More recently research partnerships have widened and we regularly work with colleagues across Europe – and the world – to answer difficult questions in the treatment of a number of children’s cancer.

What made you want to be a part of the NCRI CSGs?

Working in partnership with colleagues is essential in the treatment of rare cancers. The NCRI CSGs are a hub for these collaborations and they bring together a wide range of experts to develop clinical studies and provide advice and support which helps to improve the quality of studies overall. The CSG also provides an opportunity for patients and carers representatives to directly influence the development of clinical studies.

What does the CCL CSG do and how does it advance research into childhood cancers?

The primary aim of the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia CSG is to improve the quality of clinical studies and make sure they address unmet need in a robust and reliable way. This is achieved by providing expert and timely review of clinical studies, from the emergence of new ideas through to the implementation, conduct and conclusion of the study.

In children’s cancer we have a particular challenge because of the relatively small patient population and wide variety of different cancers. The CSG and its subgroups work directly with colleagues from Europe and the United States to bring together expertise, improve study design and maximise the number of patients that could  be recruited  – so that questions can be answered in rare patient groups. For example, the CSG has supported the International Study for High Risk Neuroblastoma (SIOPEN HR Nbl) – this recruited the highest number of patients in a clinical study in neuroblastoma worldwide and has identified the high dose therapy regimen which delivers best survival outcomes (now standard of care). The study also has an infrastructure though which tumour samples are sent to an expert reference group in Newcastle. This  has improved the molecular diagnosis of neuroblastoma.

What do you see as being the most exciting development in childhood cancer research at the moment?

The development of precision medicine – I think that exploring the molecular profile of children’s cancers could lead to new targets for treatment and hopefully new targeted anti-cancer therapies.

Whilst there has been extraordinary progress over the past 30 years and I have seen the survival rates in many children’s cancers (for example leukaemia and lymphoma) improve very significantly, the prognosis for several tumours still remains poor and there is an urgent need for new drugs and other approaches to treat these. The development of new programmes for stratified medicine and the strengthening of the infrastructure within paediatric cancer services and the national children’s tumour banks will be essential in advancing molecular diagnostic techniques  and  improve outcomes for children with these very rare, treatment- resistant cancers.

» Find out more about the NCRI CSGs (NCRI webpage)

60 second interview with Dr Alex Freeman

Dr Alex FreemanTo mark International Clinical Trials Day this year we speak to Dr Alex Freeman, Consultant Histopathologist at University College London and lead of the Clinical Trials workstream for NCRI’s Cellular Molecular Pathology (CM-Path) initiative, to ask him about the importance of pathology in clinical trials.

As a pathologist, how did you become interested in being involved in clinical trials?

As a trainee I attended a pathology meeting at which one of the speakers talked about his involvement in an early clinical trial and how it had enabled him to work closely with his surgical and oncology colleagues and resulted in the identification of a novel biomarker that was going to undergo further testing in a national trial. This encouraged me to keep an eye out for potential research opportunities at my local hospital and shortly afterwards I heard about a research team that was looking for a pathologist to undertake a medical thesis in molecular pathology. After interviewing for the post, I decided to accept the offer and was able to register this with the Royal College of Pathologists as an ‘out of programme’ experience, enabling me to return to pathology afterwards to complete my training. Following my appointment as a Consultant Pathologist, I continued my involvement in clinical trials by joining the NCRI Prostate Clinical Studies Group (CSG) and interacting closely with surgical and oncology colleagues from across the country to discuss newly proposed as well as ongoing clinical trials.

What made you want to be a part of the NCRI CM-Path initiative?

I firmly believe that pathology has a lot to offer in the development and running of clinical trials. This starts from the inception of a trial with input in to the potential utility of collecting blood or tissue to help evaluate the pathophysiological effects of the study on the patient, with advice regarding optimisation of tissue fixation, processing and storage protocols to allow robust and reproducible future molecular analysis and with assisting in the selection of biomarkers that will explore the molecular changes that have taken place in the tissues of patients who have completed the trial. By working with the NCRI CSGs I have seen examples of how clinicians and pathologists have worked together closely to design clinical trials that can get the optimum information from the trial for the benefit of further studies and future patients. I believe the CM-Path Initiative is a very good way of encouraging pathologists from across the UK to become more actively involved in clinical trials and I am very glad to be able to participate in this exciting and innovative venture.

What are the aims of the clinical trials workstream of CM-Path and how will it enhance clinical cancer research?

The 3 main aims of the Clinical Trials workstream are to:

  • encourage trainee and consultant pathologists from across the UK to think about participating in clinical trials with colleagues in surgery, oncology or imaging and research scientists
  • promote the value of pathology input into the early stages of clinical trial development as well as throughout the running of the trial and the analysis of information obtained at the completion of the trial
  • assist funding bodies and charities to publicise the potential value of incorporating blood or tissue collection within clinical trials in their calls for research proposals.

What would success look like after five years of CM-Path activity in clinical trials?

It would be great if CM-Path was able to facilitate pathologist involvement in clinical trials across the UK in all aspects of translational and molecular research in a wide range of cancers and non-cancer-related chronic diseases.

» Find out more about the NCRI CM-Path initiative (NCRI webpage)

Appointment of the NCRI Consumer Lead and Associate Consumer Lead

We’re pleased to announce that Richard Stephens and Vee Mapunde have been appointed as NCRI Consumer Lead and Associate Consumer Lead, respectively. They took up their roles on 1 April and will work in partnership to lead the Consumer Forum.

Richard brings with him a wealth of experience in galvanising patient involvement in research – he has been interim NCRI Consumer Lead for the past year, and has been involved in cancer research since the very early days of NCRI. He is a survivor of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and has first-hand experience of participating in clinical trials. He’s also served on the NCRI Board and a number of NCRI groups. Richard says, “I’m honoured to continue leading the Consumer Forum in its work – sharing our knowledge and expertise as patients and carers across the cancer research community. I would also like to welcome Vee, NCRI’s Associate Consumer Lead, who brings with her some valuable insights and perspectives that are new to the Forum.”

Vee has been involved in various patient and public involvement events and has trained researchers on the topic of patient and public involvement. Vee was a carer for her father, a prostate cancer patient who was involved in clinical research. She has worked in the clinical research environment for the last 12 years, currently as Industry Manager for the NIHR Yorkshire and Humber Clinical Research Network. Vee says, “I’m really excited to take on this role and am looking forward to working alongside Richard and with the rest of the Consumer Forum. Being a carer for my father during his cancer journey and working in the clinical research arena has given me a dual perspective and it has long been a dream of mine to bring these two worlds together more actively. If I can help to promote collaboration amongst patients and researchers and help others enhance their awareness and involvement in research, then I’ll be one happy lady.”

Richard’s appointment is for two years and Vee’s is for three years – Vee will take over form Richard as NCRI Consumer Lead in the third year.

» Find out more about the NCRI Consumer Forum (NCRI webpage)

60-second interview with Professor Anthony Chalmers, Chair of NCRI CTRad

Anthony ChalmersProfessor Anthony Chalmers is Professor of Clinical Oncology at the University of Glasgow, honorary consultant at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre and has recently become Chair of the NCRI Clinical and Translational Radiotherapy Research Working Group (CTRad), taking-up the reins from Professor Neil Burnett whose term as Chair has come to an end. Here, he tells us about his current research, what he considers are the most exciting developments in radiotherapy research at the moment, and what he enjoys doing most outside of work.

How/why did you get into clinical oncology?

In my first job as a surgical house officer I worked for a breast surgeon and spent lots of time discussing new diagnoses of breast cancer with the women on our ward. Although it sometimes felt a bit overwhelming, I found this aspect of the work extremely rewarding and by the end of the six month post I had pretty much decided I wanted to be an oncologist.

What are you working on right now?

I am delighted that my previous lab research combining PARP inhibitors with radiotherapy and chemotherapy has enabled me to develop a number of phase I clinical trials, mostly in patients with glioblastoma. Treating patients with radiotherapy-drug combinations that I’ve worked on in the lab for years is an enormous privilege and a huge responsibility. In the meantime we are undertaking preclinical evaluation of new drugs in combination with radiotherapy, looking for biomarkers that will help us identify which patients will benefit from them, and developing a new 3-dimensional (3D) tissue culture model of glioblastoma. We are very excited by the data our new 3D model is generating.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

There are three aspects that I absolutely love: the first is sitting down with a group of enthusiastic and smart people, taking a clinical problem and turning it into a properly formed research concept; the second is seeing experimental data for the first time, be it clinical or preclinical, and trying to work out what it means; the third is standing up in front of an audience to present new research findings and explain why they are important. The fact that I get to do all these things and many, many more is what I enjoy most about my job.

What do you consider to be the most exciting development in radiotherapy research at present?

There are so many! We are lucky to be working at a time when exponential advances in radiotherapy technology are taking place alongside major advances in our understanding of how tumours respond to radiotherapy. New technologies are vastly increasing the accuracy and precision with which we can deliver radiotherapy. This means we can endeavour to increase tumour cure rates by escalating radiation doses to the tumour, while at the same time reducing side effects by sparing the adjacent normal tissues. Combining this approach with new, molecularly targeted drugs has potential to significantly increase cure rates for a broad range of cancers.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I love being outdoors, either gardening or walking in the extraordinary landscapes of the West of Scotland. Indoors, I’m a keen classical pianist and until recently sang 1st bass with the City of Glasgow Chorus. I also love making and drinking cocktails.

Where in the world would you most like to visit?

We go to the Outer Hebrides every year to relax and revel in the amazing landscape. Of the places I haven’t yet visited, India is top of the list.

60-second interview with Dr Jenny Seligmann, trainee member of the NCRI Colorectal Clinical Studies Group

Jenny_CSG traineeship scheme

Dr Jenny Seligmann is a Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Clinical Trials Fellow and medical oncology specialist trainee based at the Leeds Clinical Trials research unit and St. James’s Institute of Oncology, Leeds. She participated in the NCRI Clinical Studies Group (CSG) Trainee Scheme last year, as a member of the Colorectal CSG. Here she talks to us about her experience of the scheme and the opportunities it has opened up.

How did you get in to clinical research?

Throughout medical school and post-graduate medical training I have been involved in research projects. Early involvement in the Leeds Clinical Trials Unit and the laboratory as a NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow provided not only valuable experience, opportunities and research output, but showed how rewarding, varied and fun life as a clinical academic could be.

What are you working on at the moment?

I completed my lab-based PhD last year which focussed on biomarkers in advanced colorectal cancer. I am now gaining more practical clinical trials experience with a career goal of being a clinical trialist with an interest in biomarker stratified trial design, plus set up of trial biobanks and subsequent translational work. I am also the FOCUS 4 trial physician.

What opportunities did the CSG Trainee Scheme open up for you?

It has been an important aspect of my development as a clinical trialist, particularly in understanding the function and workings of the group. I would now feel confident to present trial ideas at an early stage to the group, knowing that feedback would be key. Although I already knew most of the oncologists working in colorectal trials in the UK, I had not met those in other specialties. This has been really important as I am now developing a clinical trial with some of the colorectal surgeons, whom I would not have met at this early career stage outwith the scheme.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of applying for the next CSG Trainee Scheme?

This is a real opportunity to become part of a research community and build key collaborations with national leaders that could shape the next stages of your career. The application process was straightforward. I had discussed my application with several colleagues who are current or past members of CSGs, not just in my own speciality or disease sub-type. My choice of CSG was obvious based upon my past experience; I would encourage others to choose the group for the cancer site that they are most enthused by.


Apply for the 2016 NCRI Trainee Scheme

The 2016 Trainee Scheme will be open for application on the 24 March 2016, further details will be announced on our website.

60 second interview with Dr Karin Oien

Karin Oien photoDr Karin Oien, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Pathology at the Institute of Cancer Sciences, University of Glasgow and recently appointed Chair of CM-Path, tells us about her career in cancer research so far and what she’s most looking forward to in her new role as CM-Path Chair.

How/why did you get in to science?

My mum was a pharmacist. Sometimes she took me into her work. The coloured syrups were beautiful and it was amazing to see capsules and pills being made or counted. From then on I was fascinated with science and helping patients: medicine combined both. As a student, I did an intercalated degree specialising in pathology, the study of disease – any abnormality of body structure or function – which can be detected by naked eye, with a microscope, or by looking for changes in the underlying molecules – molecular pathology. I loved it then and am still passionate about pathology today.

What have you been working on most recently?

We have been contributing to the nationwide Cancer Research UK Stratified Medicine Programme (SMP), in which patients with lung cancer have biopsy samples analysed. Specific DNA changes mean their cancer may respond to specific drug treatments – “stratified” or “precision” medicine – in the Matrix clinical trial, which is changing the landscape for patients with lung cancer. We’re also setting up one of the Research Council-funded Molecular Pathology Nodes, which will enable pathologists, scientists, clinicians and industry to work together on diagnostic tests for cancer as well as inflammatory and cardiovascular disease.

What are you most looking forward to in your new role as Chair of CM-Path?

Working with inspiring colleagues, funders and partner organisations to make a difference! Academic pathology – centred on research and teaching – has shrunk in recent decades. But pathology and pathologists are central to the science and practice of medicine, and to enabling stratified medicine approaches, with its new biomarkers, technologies and clinical trials: SMP is a great example. CM-Path is aiming to reinvigorate UK academic pathology by building back capacity and expertise to drive and support innovation – and that will benefit patients.

What do you perceive to be the biggest challenges in pathology cancer research?

There are challenges for both discovery and applied pathology cancer research. Tumours are heterogeneous and evolve over time and in response to treatment: but what controls this and how can it be best tested and targeted? Tissue specimens are a “snapshot” enabling diagnosis but we’re trying to get more information from ever smaller samples including blood. How can we handle tissue optimally to get that information? How can we get (even) more information out of less tissue? Is the tissue or blood sample representative?

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Family activities with our three small children; and music, listening and playing – double-bass or bass guitar – as much as possible.

If you could choose one piece of art (film/play/book/music) that you love, what would it be?

That’s tough!  Two please: Primal Scream, Screamadelica; and for double-bass: Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 3.

Further information

Karin will also be hosting a Cellular Molecular Pathology workshop at the 2016 NCRI Cancer Conference. Further details will be announced on the Conference website soon.

» Visit the NCRI Cancer Conference website

» Find out more about NCRI’s CM-Path initiative (NCRI webpage)

The NCRI Consumer Forum: recruitment update

NCRI regularly recruits new consumer members to participate in its activities. Consumer involvement ensures that the voice of patients, carers and others affected by cancer can shape our activities. New membership ensures our consumer representation is relevant and bringing a fresh outlook. NCRI Consumer Lead, Richard Stephens, provides an update on the latest round of consumer recruitment.   

The purpose of the NCRI Consumer Forum is to foster a vibrant and collaborative community to work with NCRI as partners in cancer research; exchanging knowledge and expertise in a coordinated way. In terms of recruitment, this means that all new consumer recruits need a high level of skills, experience and knowledge.

Recruitment takes places regularly and we most recently recruited for new consumers to participate in the NCRI Clinical Studies Groups (CSGs). We aim for two consumers to participate in each of the 19 CSGs and in the last recruitment round over 80% of the vacancies were filled. This is a high success rate in view of the standards required, especially in what are sometimes fairly small patient populations. Vacancies for consumers on NCRI’s CTRad workstreams and on the NCRI Cancer Conference Scientific Committee have also been filled.

A sustainable recruitment model

Unsuccessful applicants are given advice and support too. For example some may be guided to their Local Clinical Research Network Patient and Public Involvement Lead, perhaps to join a local group or to become a Patient Research Ambassador in their local NHS Trust. Others may be pointed to specific research funding organisations (including NCRI Partners), and where resources allow and circumstances are appropriate, some are invited to join CSG sub-groups and the Consumer Forum. This not only supports the work of the relevant groups, but also helps move to a more sustainable model for recruiting, developing and sharing knowledge and expertise.

Retaining skills and expertise

There are currently 83 members of the NCRI Consumer Forum and this is likely to rise towards 100 as consumers end their NCRI roles but remain active in research, for example working with NCRI Partners or in Local Clinical Research Networks or other local groups, and consumers who finish a term on a CSG are encouraged to move to other CSGs, or to other roles with NCRI (e.g. from a CSG to CTRad). This enables the NCRI to retain and accumulate the expertise and skills of long-serving consumers as well as bringing in new ideas and fresh talents.

Further information

» Find out more about the NCRI Consumer Forum (NCRI webpage)

Launch of the UKCRC Tissue Directory

The UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC) Tissue Directory and Coordination Centre (the Centre) have launched their Tissue Directory 1.0, which is being developed to hold the information for tissue sample collections across the UK. This directory of biobanks aims to become the focal point for all biobanking activity in the UK. During this first phase, researchers and organisations are being encouraged to register their sample collections so that, during the second phase of development, researchers will be able to find and access the samples they need for high quality research.

» Read more information about how to register collections on the Tissue Directory (UKCRC Tissue Directory and Coordination Centre webpage) 

Working with the Centre

NCRI has been working with the Centre to ensure the previous work of the NCRI Confederation of Cancer Biobanks (CCB) in developing the NCRI Cancer Biosample Directory is retained within this new Directory. The Centre will contact anyone who has registered previously so that they can update their profile on this new Directory. NCRI’s CCB  looks forward to continuing to collaborate with the Centre to ensure maximum impact.

Background to the initiative

The Centre is a new initiative to improve access to human tissue samples for research purposes. One of the ways the Centre has been tasked to do this is through the creation of an online Tissue Directory. Funded by the UKCRC, the anticipation is that the projects they award funding to will make use of the Directory, as they are keen to optimise the use of existing human tissue collections and associated clinical and sample handling data whilst minimising duplication of effort.

What to look out for from NCRI in 2016

Much like last year, 2016 looks set to be a busy one for NCRI. Karen Kennedy, NCRI Director, gives an overview of the key plans and events that are on the cards for some of our collaborative activities in the year ahead.

Planning for the 2016 NCRI Cancer Conference has been underway for a while now – the NCRI Cancer Conference Scientific Committee, chaired by Professor Caroline Dive, have been hard at work pulling together an inspiring programme spanning basic science, translational and clinical research. As always, there will opportunities to showcase your research and receive feedback from your peers,  earn CPD credits, gain access to new data and presentations from around the world, and of course – network. Registration and abstract submission will open on the 4 April 2016. In the meantime you can browse our Conference website and see the internationally renowned speakers scheduled to speak.

» See who is speaking at the 2016 NCRI Cancer Conference (NCRI website)

We have over 50 Clinical Studies Groups (CSG) meetings planned throughout 2016 – this includes meetings between each of the 19 CSGs to keep oversight of and discuss ideas around developing clinical trials in the national portfolio, Annual Trials Meetings to give delegates an update on clinical trials in their speciality and international quinquennial Progress Reviews of CSG performance (international experts are part of the review panel and in 2016 two of our CSGs will be undergoing a quinquennial Progress Review: Primary Care and Head & Neck CSGs).

Our CSGs will continue their work with the Genomics England Clinical Interpretation Partnership domains to ensure effective sharing of research expertise in the 100,000 Genome Project. We will also be embarking on a new project in response to a recommendation from the Cancer Taskforce; working in collaboration with the NIHR CRN: Cancer to flag potentially practice changing clinical trials to the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE), enabling beneficial new treatments or approaches to be incorporated into standard practice at an earlier stage.

After a successful 18 month trial, 2016 will also see the return of the CSG Trainee Scheme which aims to give early career researchers experience of being part of a CSG. Recruitment for the second wave of the scheme will run in early April and further details will be posted on the CSG website.

» Find out more about the NCRI Clinical Studies Groups (NCRI webpage)

We announced the launch of the NCRI Cellular Molecular Pathology (CM-Path) initiative towards the end of last year, and following the recruitment call that went out shortly after this, we are now in the process of appointing the experts and members of the wider research community that will drive this initiative forward. Membership will be comprised of a chairperson, four workstream leads (one for each of the four workstreams: 1 – Skills and capacity; 2 – Clinical trials; 3 – Discovery; 4 – Technology and information), and workstream members. We look forward to announcing the membership soon and when this is in place we will be holding a launch meeting for members; an opportunity for them to share expertise and initial ideas about how best to support academic cellular molecular pathology in the UK through the NCRI CM-Path initiative.

» Find out more about NCRI CM-Path (NCRI webpage) 

In 2014 NCRI performed a scoping exercise on the potential role for NCRI in undertaking future initiatives to boost research in this area, including a consultation of key stakeholders in the field. The outcome was that whilst there is a need in this area, there are also challenges in identifying a clear course of collaborative action; for instance one of the key themes that emerged from the scoping exercise was the lack of a consistent definition of survivorship (it means different things to different people) which makes it difficult to define research gaps and promote research in the area.

At NCRI’s summer meeting in June 2015, there was a strong view amongst NCRI Partners that this topic should continue to be explored actively in 2015/16. The Cancer Taskforce report also includes a number of recommendations around survivorship, providing added impetus to coordinate activity in this area. We will therefore continue to explore this area of research in 2016 – actively engaging with researchers and patients to better understand the current research and funding landscape and identify opportunities for action, with the ultimate aim of coordinating research activity that will improve the quality of life of cancer patients. We’ll post further updates on this to our website in due course.

Last year, as a result of changes within the clinical research networks and the transfer of responsibility for consumer activity to the NCRI, we completed a comprehensive review of consumer involvement across all NCRI activities. A key outcome of the review was the establishment of the NCRI Consumer Forum, which replaced the former Consumer Liaison Group. The NCRI Consumer Forum has been ably led thus far by Richard Stephens in his role as interim NCRI Consumer Lead and it has been a hive of activity, which  looks set to continue into 2016. We regularly recruit for new members to the Forum, ensuring our consumer representation is relevant and bringing a fresh outlook and, following a recruitment call at the end of last year we will soon be appointing  some new consumer members to replace  those reaching the end of their term. And in the coming weeks we will need to advertise the Consumer Lead position, as Richard’s interim role comes to an end, having provided vision, leadership and direction for the Forum for nearly 12 months. Further information about this will be posted on our website in due course.

» Find out more about the NCRI Consumer Forum (NCRI webpage)

In order to keep the membership fresh and open for new expertise, the NCRI Clinical and Translational Radiotherapy Research Working Group (CTRad) are rotating some of its consumer members and Workstream co-chairs who will take on their roles when the Chair and Deputy Chair also rotate their positions in April this year.

Late last year, CTRad outlined the concept of a ‘Centre of Excellence in Academic Radiation Oncology’ and invited radiotherapy research-active centres across the UK to participate in a self-evaluation exercise. We are currently analysing the collected data and evidence and are expecting to publish the results later in the year, to illustrate aspirational targets, encourage local discussions and enable individual centres to gauge their progress in a national context. We will also be publishing a review into molecular radiotherapy (MRT) research soon. The review is based on a survey on MRT research participation at UK universities and hospitals; it will highlight the challenges involved in developing MRT research projects, and recommendations to help move the national MRT research agenda forward.

Aswell as the usual twice-yearly proposals guidance meetings where investigators who have ideas for radiotherapy research are invited to present their proposals for open discussion and feedback from a panel of CTRad experts, there will also be a variety of meetings and workshops to promote collaborative working in radiotherapy research. Reports of most of these meetings will be made available on the CTRad website.

» Find out more about NCRI CTRad (NCRI webpage)

The NCRI Future of Surgery workshop series aims to bring the surgical research community together and influence the future of surgery research in cancer by running a series of workshops covering challenging and cross-specialty topics. Over the next two years NCRI, in partnership with Royal College of Surgeons of England will present five workshops. Workshop 1 will be held on 4 May 2016 in London and cover the topic of outcome measures in surgery studies, registration to attend this workshop is now open and further information can be found on the webpage below. The plans for the other workshops are still being developed by the NCRI Future of Surgery steering committee but we can now announce that workshop 2, on the topic of technology trials in surgery, will be held on 20 September in London, so be sure to save the date for this. Information on how to register to attend will be posted on our website shortly.

» Find out more about NCRI Future of Surgery workshop series  (NCRI webpage)

NCRI’s top 10 highlights of 2015

From hosting the UK’s largest cancer research meeting to launching a game changing initiative in pathology, 2015 has been a busy year. NCRI Director Karen Kennedy picks her ‘top 10’ NCRI highlights for 2015.

Karen says, “It was tough to pick just 10 – we run many collaborative activities across a range of specialisms and we work with a diverse group of people; all sharing their expertise and ideas and working collaboratively to help make faster progress in cancer research. It goes without saying that all of the achievements you see below are due to the dedication and collaborative spirit of many, so on behalf of the NCRI Team I’d like to thank all those involved for their continued support of NCRI’s work. Have a great festive season and New Year”.

1. 2015 NCRI Cancer Conference

ABPCO Conference

With over 1700 attendees, 150 speakers and 650 posters presented, the 2015 Conference was a great success. The Conference covered a range of basic, translational and clinical subjects, with a number of sessions exploring broader issues such as E-cigarettes or cancer and physical activity. Over 90% of attendees said they would recommend the Conference to a colleague. There was also a mix of symposia, plenary lectures and networking opportunities – something for everyone. As you can imagine, a Conference of this size and breadth takes a lot of organising, and it is all supported by our in-house NCRI Conference team, who do a brilliant job. This year their achievements have been recognised by the Association of British Professional Conference Organisers (ABPCO) – I’m pleased to congratulate them on their 2015 ABPCO best in-house Conference organiser finalist award (awarded for the 10th NCRI Cancer Conference), which they accepted earlier this month in Brighton (pictured: Deborah and Nicole from the Conference team receiving the award).

» View some of the highlights of the 2015 NCRI Cancer Conference (NCRI webpage)

2. CTRad going strong

CTRad logo

Now in its sixth year, and with a new block of funding agreed until 2018, our radiotherapy initiative, CTRad, is going strong. Its recent activities to boost radiotherapy research include a workshop to scope ideas for Cancer Research UK’s Grand Challenge, a proton beam therapy research town meeting and a research proposals guidance meeting where investigators who have ideas for radiotherapy research are invited to present their proposals for open discussion and feedback from a panel of CTRad experts.

» Find out more about CTRad (NCRI webpage)

3. New Chair and Trustees

Delyth Morgan

In June, we welcomed NCRI’s new trustees and Chair. We have been fortunate enough to have esteemed Chairs of NCRI over the years and our latest is no exception; Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Now took up the NCRI Chair role, succeeding Dr Harpal Kumar. Baroness Morgan is one of five of our trustees who were elected at NCRI’s Annual Meeting in June. Other Trustees are Dr Helen Campbell (Department of Health), Ms Cathy Gilman (Bloodwise), Ms Shirley Harrison (lay trustee) and Professor Peter Johnson (Cancer Research UK). We plan to further strengthen our board ensuring it is as skilled and diverse as possible. As such we will be advertising for additional trustees to join the Board early in 2016. Further details will be available on our website when the recruitment process kicks off in the new year.

» Find out more about NCRI Chair and Trustees (NCRI webpage)

4. The first NCRI Summer Meeting

NCRI Summer meeting

The 2015 NCRI Summer Meeting, held in June, was an opportunity for NCRI Partners and key stakeholders to come together and review progress made so far in NCRI’s initiatives and to look forward to priorities for NCRI in the year ahead and further potential for collaboration. We had a wealth of expertise and knowledge in the room and we covered a diverse range of NCRI initiatives – our initiatives seek to address the big issues across the research spectrum and patient pathway. I was really impressed with the enthusiasm and support in the room; we all know that it’s so important to work together, across organisations and specialities, if we want to make faster progress against cancer.
» Read a summary of our Summer Meeting (NCRI webpage)

5. Launch of the NCRI Cellular Molecular Pathology (CM-Path) initiative

cm-pathWe’ve known for a while that there are barriers to undertaking pathology research in the UK and NCRI produced a report and recommendations to address these back in 2009, however little improvement has occurred since then. As a result, NCRI together with the ECMC Pathology Network Group consulted with the research community and identified priority areas for action. This was formulated in to a plan for an NCRI initiative and was presented to NCRI Partners at the NCRI Summer Meeting in June 2015. Partners agreed it was an excellent proposal and a subset of them have committed funding for the next five years to support academic cellular molecular pathology in the UK and make the resulting benefits available to the wider research community.
» Find out more about NCRI CM-Path (NCRI webpage)

6. Over 60 CSG meetings and a new interactive map of clinical studies

Interactive portfolio mpas2015 has been another busy year for the NCRI Clinical Studies Groups (CSGs). Across our 20 CSGs we’ve delivered over 60 CSG meetings, bringing together hundreds of clinicians, scientists, statisticians and lay representatives to coordinate the development of a strategic portfolio of cancer clinical trials in the UK. This year also saw the launch of the new interactive portfolio maps. The NCRI CSG portfolio maps provide a visual representation of a CSGs portfolio of studies, highlighting areas of clinical cancer research that are currently well represented, and where there are any gaps. The new version brings all the portfolio maps (previously available as individual PDFs) together in to one interactive platform that can be searched and filtered by criteria such as study phase, funding type and study status. They were developed by NCRI in collaboration with NIHR CRN: Cancer and with a one-off grant from Roche Products Ltd.  The next step for the maps will be the addition of a geo-localisation function, enabling the user to search for studies that are open for recruitment or in set-up phase in a particular area in the UK.
» Find out more about the NCRI Clinical Studies Groups (NCRI webpage)

7. A new NCRI Consumer Forum

Poster success -2015 NCIN ConferenceEarlier this year, as a result of changes within the Networks and the transfer of responsibility for consumer activity to the NCRI, we completed a comprehensive review of consumer involvement across all NCRI activities. A key outcome of the review was the establishment of the NCRI Consumer Forum (it replaces the former Consumer Liaison Group). The NCRI Consumer Forum has been ably led thus far by Richard Stephens in his role as NCRI Consumer Lead and it has been a hive of activity. There was a strong Forum presence at the NCIN conference in Belfast in June (with a number of the Forum’s posters winning prizes – pictured), the Forum also presented posters on patient involvement in research at the NCRI Cancer Conference in Liverpool in November, and ran the highly successful Dragon’s Den session which saw more consumers and researchers in attendance than ever before.

» Find out more about the NCRI Consumer Forum (NCRI webpage)

8. £498m of research funding captured in the NCRI Cancer Research Database


NCRI has been collecting research funding data since 2002,  to understand how money is spread across the various areas of research, and identify trends and gaps in funding across a range of research areas. To track how UK funding changes over time, our Partner organisations are asked to submit data each year on how much they have spent on research, and the research projects and programmes that they spent it on. NCRI publishes annual summaries of the data on our website, as well as periodic reports looking at trends or particular areas within the portfolio. NCRI Partners can also use the information to undertake detailed analyses of their own. This year marked the thirteenth consecutive year of collecting NCRI Partners’ cancer-relevant research funding. The total level of funding came to £498 million (this total has remained around the half billion pound mark since 2009) and once again the three largest areas of research were in biology, early detection, diagnosis and prognosis and treatment. Looking back to 2009, it appears as though the proportion of research into biology is dropping slightly while the opposite is true for the other two areas. Meanwhile the top five cancer sites included breast cancer, leukaemia, colon and rectal cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer, this has remained the case since 2012 and all five of these research areas saw an increase in funding compared to five years ago.

» Find out more about NCRI’s Cancer Research Database (NCRI webpage)

9. Sharing insights internationally

S ICRP logo stacked white bkgr

NCRI is the UK member of the International Cancer Research Partnership (ICRP) – an alliance of cancer research funding organisations from the USA, Canada, Australia, France, Japan, the Netherlands and UK – working together to improve access to information about cancer research internationally. And through this partnership we are able to connect UK research funding information (collected in the NCRI cancer research database) with international funding data, helping to build a picture of global research spending trends. Earlier this year I attended ICRP’s annual meeting (this year in Canada) where there were opportunities to network and share best practice with other cancer research funding organisations. We heard updates and overviews on various cancer research initiatives across the countries within the ICRP. Whilst in Canada, I was also invited to visit the Canadian Cancer Research Alliance (CCRA) – the Canadian equivalent of NCRI – to share insights in to how NCRI is developing its role to foster collaboration and provide oversight of cancer research in the UK.

» Find out more about NCRI’s international collaboration (NCRI webpage)

10. Future of Surgery workshop series


Research spend in surgery is low, despite surgery being an important aspect of many cancer patient’s journeys. Analysis of the NCRI Cancer Research Database highlighted a low overall volume of surgical research in cancer and this analysis prompted the 2012 NCRI report, Challenges and opportunities in surgical cancer research in the UK. Despite the low volume of cancer surgery studies, UK surgeons have delivered a number of exemplary trials in cancer and there is enthusiasm from surgeons to take on studies and motivate the next generation. The NCRI Future of Surgery workshop series aims to bring the surgical research community together and influence the future of surgery research in cancer by running a series of workshops covering challenging and cross-specialty topics. There will be five workshops running over the next two years in partnership with the Royal College of Surgeons, and workshop leads have been selected to run the workshops, following a competitive open application process. The first workshop “Trials are only as credible as their endpoints”: defining the future outcomes of surgical research, will be held on Wednesday 4 May 2016.

» Find out more about the NCRI Future of Surgery workshop series (NCRI webpage)

Latest news from the NCRI Consumer Forum

NCRI Consumer Forum members had a busy 2015 NCRI Cancer Conference. A poster on show, the highly esteemed Dragon’s Den and a 50 hour ‘hackathon’.

Poster: the Forum’s latest analysis of the National Cancer Patient Experience Survey

The Forum’s latest analysis of the 2014 National Cancer Patient Experience Survey (NCPES) data looked at the association between age and access to research opportunities. They found that there has been little change nationally from 2013 and that older patients are still not asked to take part in research as often as younger patients. Lead author of the research Carolyn Morris presented the research to delegates during the poster session at the Conference. She said “These findings show inequality of access to research opportunities for cancer patients. And they show that overall things aren’t changing….It is in everyone’s interest to have more research opportunities in our cancer services, for those opportunities to be offered to cancer patients, and for patients, advocates and charities to ask for them.”

» View the poster presented at the 2015 NCRI Cancer Conference (PDF, 2015)

The NCRI Consumer Forum Dragon’s Den – including a ‘hackathon’

The NCRI Consumer Forum’s Dragon’s Den is an opportunity for researchers to put their study proposals to a panel of consumers and gain the benefit of their unique perspectives and experiences. This year the event was sponsored by Cancer Research UK – and it was even bigger than previous years, with nine research teams attending to meet with nearly 100 consumers. The research ideas discussed ranged from early phase pharmaceutical studies, later phase radiotherapy trials, and even the launch of a 50-hour ‘hackathon’ with AstraZeneca, looking at designing a mobile application for trial participants.

“This year was more crowded than in the past,” said NCRI Consumer Forum Chair, Richard Stephens, “But also more purposeful. We had a little more time and many of the consumers and some of the researchers have done it before.”

“We were pleased to come back to the Dragon’s Den,” added Jenny Royle, an AstraZeneca researcher, “And we are learning to harness consumer involvement for a variety of reasons – a couple of clinical studies, our ‘hackathon’ and a very useful discussion on certain types of side effects and how patients and carers view the balance between severity and frequency.”

“It was good too to link the Dragon’s Den event more closely with other Conference activities,” Richard added, “We supported CTRad researchers preparing for their Wednesday workshop and we helped NIHR with a proposal that links to their Patient Research Ambassador programme, which was the topic of other work later on at the Conference. And on Wednesday morning, we had another session with AstraZeneca to conclude their 50-hour global ‘hackathon’, which was not only very enjoyable for us, but helps us to encourage pharmaceutical companies to continue their support for the Conference.”

» Find out more about the NCRI Consumer Forum (NCRI webpage)

» Find out more about NCRI’s CTRad initiative (NCRI webpage)

Ximbio: a new way to exchange knowledge and trade research reagents from Cancer Research Technology

Ximbio: a new way to exchange knowledge and trade research reagents from Cancer Research Technology


Ximbio is a website for the life science community to exchange knowledge and trade research reagents such as mouse models, antibodies, cell lines and small molecules. Launched last year, it originates from Cancer Research Technology, the development and commercialisation arm of Cancer Research UK. Ximbio aims to unify the life science community to make research tools widely available and accelerate research. Researchers and Technology Transfer Offices can virtually upload their reagents to the Ximbio website, making them globally visible. For scientists looking for a specific reagent, Ximbio offers a fully searchable database, extensive datasheets, peer reviews and supplier options for over 1000 products.

» Find out more (Ximbio website)

Update from the Combinations Alliance

Update from the Combinations Alliance

Hazel Jones, Cancer Research UK’s Head of Combination Therapies, talks to us about the latest collaborations and opportunities to get involved and explore the use of new therapies in combination strategies.

Combination strategies must be investigated earlier in the drug development pipeline to maximise treatment opportunities for people with cancer. Even with their significant resources, drug companies can only explore a fraction of all possible combinations.

Launched in 2010, the Combinations Alliance is supported and governed by Cancer Research UK’s (CRUK) Centre for Drug Development (CDD) and offers a collaborative model. For academic researchers, this offers the opportunity to increase the number of novel combination treatment options and for industry, this provides the opportunity to broaden potential markets for their novel drugs. The Combinations Alliance is also driving cross-company collaborations, to establish a position as broker, hence progressing the most promising combinations.

Current collaborations

The Combinations Alliance now has nine industry partners including recent collaborations with Biothera, Plexxikon, Clovis, Verastem and Immudulon and the longstanding commercial partnerships with AstraZeneca, MedImmune, Lilly and Astex. The partners offer one or more novel drugs for academics to explore different combinations of therapies, including radiotherapy, in early phase clinical trials. Active discussions are ongoing with several other companies and researchers are encouraged to complete our ‘Drugs of Interest’ survey on our website.

» Drugs of interest survey (external webpage)

With a growing and transitioning portfolio, success has now been demonstrated both with delivery of trials and the opportunities they can offer, such as expansion into wider disease areas shown by TAX-TORC demonstrating efficacy in ovarian and squamous cell lung cancer. Furthermore, novel intra-patient dose escalation in CompAKT and delivering the first trial in neuroendocrine tumours in VIBRANT, shows the varied nature of our work.

Opportunities to get involved

There are ongoing opportunities to get involved and maximise the effective use of new therapies in combination with other novel agents, immunotherapy or conventional chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

In order for a novel combination to progress to an early phase clinical trial, preclinical evidence is required to support the idea. CRUK’s preclinical combination scheme can provide the funding to support these types of combination study. Furthermore, the Radiotherapy-drug combinations consortium (RaDCom), established by NCRI’s Clinical and Translational Radiotherapy research working group (CTRad) and CRUK, can help investigators develop ideas and deliver supporting preclinical evidence for novel radiotherapy-drug combinations.

» Funding for preclinical studies of new drug combinations (CRUK webpage)

Calls for novel clinical combination ideas are made to the ECMC network and planned three times per year. The next call is planned for early December. In advance of the call we are holding a workshop on  Wednesday 4 November at this year’s NCRI Cancer Conference in Liverpool.

» Workshop at the NCRI Cancer Conference (internal webpage)

Further information

» Combinations Alliance webpage

» Email the Combinations Alliance


NCRI Clinical Studies Groups: latest Chair rotations

NCRI Clinical Studies Groups: latest Chair rotations

Chairs for the CSGs rotate every three years with an option to reapply for a further three years. Recruitment rounds usually run in summer, where vacancies are available. The next round of recruitment will be in summer 2016.

See below for announcements of the latest incoming and outgoing Chairs.

Chair rotations:

  • NCRI Renal CSG: Dr Paul Nathan (incoming), Dr James Larkin (outgoing)
  • NCRI Testis CSG: Dr Jonathan Shamash (incoming),  Professor Johnathan Joffe (outgoing)
  • NCRI Bladder CSG: Dr Alison Birtle has been reappointed for a second term
  • NCRI Head & Neck CSG: Professor Hisham Mehanna has been reappointed for a second term

A full list of CSG Chairs and members can be found on the CSG website.

» NCRI CSG Groups list (CSG webpage)

Looking for a single efficient way of exploring EORTC collaboration? The EORTC Collaboration Pathway has now been launched

Looking for a single efficient way of exploring  EORTC collaboration?  The EORTC Collaboration Pathway has now been launched

The European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) provides a pan-European network of experts and the infrastructure for carrying out translational and clinical  cancer research across Europe. Members of our NCRI Clinical Studies Groups (CSGs) have been collaborating with the EORTC  when necessary, however the connections have primarily been via personal links and a consensus on a single efficient mechanism to explore EORTC clinical trial collaboration has been lacking – until now.

The UK EORTC Liaison Officer, at Cancer Research UK (CRUK), has developed a pathway to highlight the key steps involved in exploring EORTC collaboration when developing a clinical trial (for both UK- and EORTC- initiated studies). These pathways are available to download from both the NCRI CSG website and the EORTC website.

» Collaboration pathways for exploring EORTC collaboration (NCRI CSG webpage)

Alongside the pathways a confidentiality framework has been developed to protect against the sharing of study information outside of the collaboration discussions.  This framework forms the basis of a ‘conditions of use’ agreement associated with utilising the Collaboration Pathways the details of which are sent on a study-by-study basis.

Further information

» Find out more about the EORTC (EORTC website)

» Contact the UK EORTC Liaison Officer at CRUK (email)


CTRad: developing the latest radiotherapy trials

CTRad: developing the latest radiotherapy trials

CTRad logo

CTRad organises Proposal Guidance Meetings up to twice a year, where investigators who have ideas for radiotherapy research are invited to present their proposals for open discussion and feedback from a panel of CTRad experts. The most recent meeting took place in June and, aswell as being a milestone as the tenth meeting, it was also the first meeting where ideas in proton beam therapy (PBT) research were brought to the table.

13 radiotherapy proposals ideas were discussed at the half-day meeting; including multiple ideas for research in radiotherapy for lung cancer and also multiple ideas in PBT.

Professor Neil Burnet, Chair of CTRad said, “The proposals guidance meetings are always a great way for investigators to bounce ideas around with other experts and gain valuable insights into ways they can further develop their radiotherapy research proposals. They also open up opportunities for networking and collaboration.”

“In this meeting we were especially delighted to see four early ideas in PBT being discussed – this is the first time that ideas around research using PBT have been brought to CTRad and it reflects the growing interest in this area in anticipation of the first PBT centres that will be opening in the UK over the next few years. It’s also a credit to the work that CTRad are doing in starting national conversations about how we’ll develop high-quality research using PBT once the UK centres are open.”

A call for research proposals to be discussed at the next proposals guidance meeting will be announced soon, along with further details of this next meeting.

» Further information on CTRad proposals guidance meetings (CTRad webpage)

In the meantime, if you are an investigator working on a radiotherapy-themed clinical research proposal you can approach CTRad’s Radiotherapy Clinical Trials Advisory Service (RADCAS) team for specialist advice.

» Further information on RADCAS (CTRad webpage)


Hitting the ground running – news from the NCRI Consumer Forum

Hitting the ground running – news from the NCRI Consumer Forum

The new NCRI Consumer Forum has been formed to take over the role of the former Consumer Liaison Group (CLG), with a more focussed remit. The Forum is chaired by Richard Stephens in his new role as Interim NCRI Consumer Lead.

The forum aims to foster a vibrant and collaborative community to work with NCRI as partners in cancer research; exchanging knowledge and expertise in a coordinated way. Further information on the forum, including its remit and membership can be found at the link below.

» Further information about the NCRI Consumer Forum (internal webpage)

The NCRI Consumer Forum had a strong presence at the NCIN Conference in Belfast in June.  17 members attended, two of them hosting Plenary Sessions, and several asking questions from the floor and contributing to debates. Helen Bulbeck and Margaret Grayson were award-winners for poster presentations as co-authors with researchers, whilst Carolyn Morris, Mat Baker and others produced a triptych of posters about the National Cancer Patient Experience Survey.

The three posters show responses to  survey questions about awareness of research, and the leading poster, “Keeping the Customer Satisfied #1” won two awards, one from the Conference Committee and also one of the Patient Choice Awards voted for at the conference itself.

Poster success -2015 NCIN Conference

Proud of the Forum’s success: Richard Stephens, NCRI Consumer Lead and Karen Kennedy, NCRI Director at the “Keeping the Customer Satisfied #1” poster, 2015 NCIN Conference.

“The [Keeping the Customer Satisfied #1] poster shows that patients who participate in research, or even who just have a conversation about research, are more likely to report satisfaction with their care,“  Richard Stephens explains. “ It is very pleasing that its significance was recognised both by researchers and clinicians and also by the patients and public who were at the conference. The poster’s findings are a powerful message to take into the NIHR networks and the devolved nations.”

All three posters on the National Cancer Patient Experience Survey can be viewed at the links below.

» Keeping The Customer Satisfied #1: Is Taking Part in Research Associated With Better Experience of Care? Findings from the 2013 National Cancer Patient Experience Survey (PDF, 2013)

» Keeping The Customer Satisfied #2 It Is OK To Ask – Who Are We Asking, And Who Participates? Further Findings from the National Cancer Patient Experience Survey 2013 (PDF,2013)

» Keeping The Customer Satisfied #3: It Is OK To Ask – Who Are We Asking? Variations by Type of Cancer Findings from the 2013 National Cancer Patient Experience Survey (external website poster abstract: Day 2, poster number P-124)


Clinical study concept registration scheme

Clinical study concept registration scheme

An NCRI scheme to register and initiate collaborative discussions of clinical study concepts has recently been launched.

The NCRI Study Concept Registration scheme will provide a route for researchers to initiate collaborative discussions with members of relevant NCRI Clinical Studies Groups (CSGs) about their new or developing clinical study concept. When a study is submitted, the NCRI Executive will ‘match-make’ between CSGs and Advisory Groups to facilitate collaborative discussions and provide expert advice. In addition, the scheme will enable the NCRI Executive to keep a clear record of study concepts and their progress.

Researchers may submit any clinical study, including  trials or observational studies, which are being developed by the CSG or CSG Subgroups or studies where a new translational or add-on component is proposed for an existing study – this may also include studies submitted by researchers outside the CSGs. Typically studies will be submitted just before or after the funding application stage – so that discussions are focused on development and optimisation of  proposals.

» Further information about the NCRI Study Concept Registration scheme (CSG webpage)


Making the international connection – a global view on research spending trends

NCRI plays a pivotal role in fostering collaboration across cancer research in the UK – providing a forum to share information, expertise and ideas to ensure we are tackling important research questions effectively and efficiently and that, ultimately, progress against cancer is being made faster. But what about international collaboration? Here, Dr Kieran Breen, our Head of Programmes and Evaluation tells us about one of the ways NCRI helps to extend this forum internationally – to help us gain a global view on research spending trends.

Here in the UK, NCRI collects information annually on the research funded by our 21 cancer research funding Partners. This is held in our cancer research database (CaRD) which is a unique resource that we use to analyse research spending trends – highlighting areas of relative research strength as well as areas which may require more investment. This helps the NCRI identify areas that may benefit from collaborative working.

This information is available to all Partners as well as to external researchers upon request. We also make top-level findings publicly available on our website.

» Further information on CaRD (NCRI webpage)

The International Cancer Research Partnership
NCRI is the UK member of the International Cancer Research Partnership (ICRP) – an alliance of cancer research funding organisations from the USA, Canada, Australia, France, Japan, the Netherlands and UK) working together to improve access to information about cancer research internationally.  And it is through this partnership that the NCRI are able to connect the data from our Partners in the UK with international funding data, helping to build a picture of global research spending trends.

» Further information on ICRP (external webpage)

Connecting the data
Every year, NCRI submits details of the research funded by our Partners to ICRP and this is uploaded into the combined database. This combined database contains information on over 60,000 research grants, totalling over $15bn – representing a large portion of the cancer research performed in North America, Europe, Japan and Australia and this represents a significant proportion of worldwide cancer research funding outside the industrial sector.

Getting a global view on research spending trends
ICRP analyses the cancer research funding and publishes periodic reports on a variety of topics; from detailed analysis enabling comparison of research spending patterns between the UK and other countries, to more specific reports that examine trends in research investment.

» ICRP publications (external webpage)

ICRP members also have access to the detailed data and can use this to assess changes in funding patterns over time as well as comparing funding priorities internationally. For instance, we recently analysed the ICRP database to look at the nature and volume of childhood cancer research funded by NCRI Partners in the UK compared with other countries. This was in response to a request by the UK children’s cancer community to benchmark UK activity against work elsewhere.

» NCRI childhood cancer report, 2014 (PDF)

ICRP also make their database available to the public, so researchers, funders and others can see what is going on internationally.

» The ICRP public database (external webpage)

Further information

» Email the NCRI database team