Highlights from the 2015 NCRI Summer Meeting – 23 June, London

The 2015 NCRI Summer Meeting brought together senior representatives from NCRI Partner organisations, industry and patient representatives, and other key stakeholders in the field of cancer research. It was an opportunity to reflect on progress made so far in NCRI’s collaborative initiatives and to look forward to priorities for NCRI in the year ahead.

The full-day meeting was chaired by NCRI Chair Delyth Morgan, from Breast Cancer Now and included presentations and updates from Andy Hall, Chair of NCRI’s Confederation of Cancer Biobanks (CCB); Anne Carter, Director of UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC) Tissue Coordination Centre; Bridget Wilkins, Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre initiative Pathology Lead; Chris Carrigan, Head of the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN), Public Health England; Richard Stephens, NCRI Consumer Lead; Sally Barrington, from the NCRI Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Core Lab and Virginia Acha, Association of the British Pharmaceutical Company (ABPI), Executive Director, Research Medical and Innovation.

Read on for the meeting highlights.

Trends and spends – the latest analysis of NCRI’s Cancer Research Database

Each year NCRI collects data on research funded by its Partners in the NCRI Cancer Research Database (CaRD). This enables us to analyse and keep track of the UK cancer research landscape; highlighting trends and gaps in funding across a range of research areas. Our most recent analysis showed that the amount spent on research by NCRI Partners and captured in CaRD in 2014 was £498m; split 64:36 between charity and government sectors. Looking at research spend across the portfolio, we saw that proportionally, Biology and Treatment research together make up two-thirds and Prevention remains a very small part of the portfolio with just £18m of funding in 2014. A summary of the key analyses and trends in spending can be viewed in the infographic below.

2015---NCRI---CaRD

» Download the 2014 CaRD infographic

Progress of NCRI’s collaborative initiatives

NCRI Partners coordinate and collaborate on a number of initiatives to address areas of particular need or opportunity in the UK. The nature of our initiatives varies widely – each involves different groups of funders, tackling different types of challenges and often in different ways. Summaries of some of the initiatives in NCRI’s pipeline and the next steps discussed at the meeting are given below. You can also find out more about how NCRI initiatives work by clicking on the diagram.

In 2014 NCRI performed a scoping exercise on the potential role for NCRI in undertaking future initiatives to boost research in this area. 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. It will be important for NCRI to keep this topic active as exploratory work in the pipeline; linking in with other developments in the field that will influence the survivorship agenda (e.g. The NHS Cancer Taskforce and the Living With and Beyond Cancer programme funded by Macmillan and NHS England). Activity can also be promoted through existing channels, and NCRI will be arranging a workshop with Partners to identify potential ‘quick wins’ in this area and using links within the NCRI Clinical Studies Groups to seek opportunities to enhance survivorship research.

If this topic is of interest and you want to get in involved, please get in touch.

» Email the NCRI Executive

Academic activity in pathology has been declining for some time, and an NCRI report published in 2009 ‘Fostering the role of pathology in research’ called for action in the area. With other large initiatives taking off around the same time it was thought that these would stimulate the necessary research engagement; however these programmes evolved to fulfil a different need. The pathology community re-approached the NCRI last year and after an extensive consultation, a proposal for a new initiative was worked up by Bridget Wilkins and colleagues from the ECMC Pathology Group.

The proposed initiative seeks to boost the declining research activity in academic pathology and forge the essential links between cellular and molecular pathology. This will enable the field of pathology as a whole to modernise and innovate, which is essential to support the development of new treatments and diagnostics. NCRI is continuing discussions to seek collaborative funding for this work.

If this topic is of interest and you want to get in involved, please get in touch.

» Email the NCRI Executive

NCRI’s Confederation of Cancer Biobanks (CCB) was launched in 2006 as a networked consortium of independently managed and autonomous cancer biobanks. Starting with four founding biobanks, it now has a membership of more than 25. CCB’s aim is to foster coordination among biobanks, including the development and adoption of best practice.

» NCRI CCB website (external webpage)

Since its inception it has made considerable progress against its objectives: helping to bring the biobanking community together to provide mutual support and exchange expertise and information – including information about samples held in biobanks, through the on-line NCRI Cancer Biosample Directory. It has also promoted harmonisation between biobanks with the development and publication of data and quality standards.

Now, with the launch of the UKCRC Tissue Directory and Coordination Centre, some of the coordination and harmonisation roles of CCB have been superseded. A meeting amongst CCB members in June reached a consensus that there is still a need to continue its cancer-specific discussions and coordination in biobanking, to ensure that best practice is shared and that the importance of tissue-based research to patients is promoted. NCRI is continuing discussions on the best way to support this initiative.

The partnership between NCRI and Public Health England’s National Cancer intelligence Network (NCIN) aims to promote the use of data that are routinely collected in the NHS (and brought together by the NCIN) amongst the cancer research community. This partnership is formalised by support to promote the appropriate use and linkage of collected data for investigator-led research projects.

» Further information about the NCRI /NCIN partnership (internal webpage)

Current challenges around data access have raised the need to reassess the remit of the support provided by NCRI, in order to maximise value and benefit. A key route to help unblock access will undoubtedly be the ‘patient voice’ – raising awareness of the importance of data access and the positive impact that using patient data has had in cancer research will help to keep this issue high on the national agenda. NCRI will be consulting with Partners on the best way to support this partnership and will be using links within the NCRI Consumer Forum to seek opportunities to harness the patient voice.

The Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Core Lab was set up by NCRI in 2012 as an output of a previous NCRI project in the area. Since its inception the PET Core Lab team, based at St Thomas’ Hospital, has made considerable progress against its objectives: providing a quality control service for clinical trials involving PET (both academic and industry funded trials), accrediting sites for participation in PET multicentre trials and developing guidance and standards for the use of PET in research (the team co-authored the European FDG-PET-CT guidelines). Future work will also focus on coordination of discussions around minimising the impact of the phasing out of mobile scanners in the NHS.

» Further information about the NCRI PET imaging initiative (internal webpage)

The long-term value of this initiative has been recognised and it will transfer into ECMC structures from August 2015. A final report summarising achievements and outputs of the initiative is due to be published in the summer.

The UK end-of-life care research interest group (UKeolcRIG) was initiated by NCRI in 2012 in recognition of the low levels of research undertaken in this area. It now has 25 member organisations who work together to bring end-of-life care research into the mainstream, raising awareness and stimulating activity amongst funders and researchers.

» Further information about the UKeolcRIG initiative (internal webpage)

In 2014 , management of UKeolcRIG was transferred to Marie Curie. Since then, the Group has had two meetings to further identify activities and advance particular pieces of work. It remains an active group – in its most recent meeting in June numerous action points were identified and the Group will be working to make progress on these in the year ahead.

A number of UKeolcRIG members were involved in the Palliative and end-of-life care Priority Setting Partnership (PeolcPSP) which was facilitated by the James Lind Alliance. Through extensive public consultation the top research questions for action in end-of-life care were identified and the findings have been recently published in a report. NCRI will continue to link in with developments in this area.

» The PeolcPSP final report (external webpage)

The National Prevention Research Initiative (NPRI) was set up in 2004 by a subset of NCRI Partners and other research funders working beyond cancer. The initiative provides funds to support more research on various health behaviours in relation to disease prevention.

» Further information on NPRI (internal webpage)

The Medical Research Council (MRC) manages the NPRI on behalf of the funding partners. £33m was pledged across four phases of funding and with 65% of all awards now finished, the MRC has undertaken a review of the NPRI in order to generate recommendations for next steps in prevention research. The report is due to be published in summer 2015.

Stakeholder perspectives: patients and industry

By engaging with the wider research community we can achieve great things, and ultimately make faster progress against cancer. Patient and industry representatives participated in the meeting as key stakeholders and they also gave attendees an update of the work they’re currently involved in. We heard about the successes of the NCRI Consumer Forum in embedding patient experience and perspectives in to research through NCRI’s collaborative initiatives; and we heard from the ABPI on the hot-topics in the industry, including: a burgeoning research interest in immunotherapy and advanced therapies, engagement in further dialogue about the Cancer Drugs Fund and a focus on the need to build more evidence around the use of diagnostics.

Further information

For questions about the initiatives discussed please refer to the relevant page on our website or contact the NCRI Executive on the email below.

» Email the NCRI Executive