Highlights from the 2016 NCRI Summer Meeting – 22 June 2016, London

The 2016 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 and beyond.

The full-day meeting was hosted by NCRI Chair Delyth Morgan. The morning session included updates on research funding across the partnership from our Cancer Research Database (CaRD) and updates on our other collaborative initiatives, including our newest initiative to reinvigorate academic cellular molecular pathology (CM-Path), plans for the future of our highly successful radiotherapy initiative (CTRad) and a proposal for a new NCRI initiative to boost research in the area of living with and beyond cancer.  In the afternoon, the focus turned towards NCRI’s new five year strategy – which is due to be launched in 2017.

Read on for the meeting highlights.

An overview of research funded by NCRI Partners in 2015 – the latest analysis of NCRI’s Cancer Research Database

2016-CaRD

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 2015 was £498m; split 62:38 between charity and government sectors. This funding came from a total of 2853 research awards across our 18 Partners. Looking at trends over a five year period we can see that spend in research focused on Early Detection, Diagnosis and Prognosis has increased the most compared with the other categories of research that we monitor, and that spend in research focused on Aetiology (the causes of cancer) has fallen the most. A summary of the key analyses and trends in spending can be viewed on our CaRD webpage.

» NCRI Cancer Research Database (CaRD) webpage

Progress of NCRI’s collaborative initiatives

NCRI Partners coordinate and collaborate on a number 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. 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 discussions around our current initiatives, their progress and next steps are given below.

2014-CTRad-Achievements-and-vision---cover

Since its launch in 2009, NCRI’s CTRad has reinvigorated the UK radiotherapy research community. Transforming this crucial research area from a state of crisis – underfunded, poor levels of research activity and little interest from the next generation of researchers – to a hive of research activity and promise. Since the launch of CTRad there has been an increase in the quality and quantity of radiotherapy trials in the UK and a doubling of the number of patients recruited to these trials. As one attendee put it, thanks to CTRad, radiotherapy research in the UK is now often thought of as being ’where the bright minds are going’.

In the last year alone, CTRad has been influential in securing high-level funding for three projects that will enable UK researchers to address specific issues in radiotherapy (the ART-NET CRUK Network Accelerator Award, the STFC Global Challenge Network+ Award and the EPSRC Grand Challenge Network Award). It was also a leader in the development of a landmark paper on the clinical development of new drug-radiotherapy combinations, published in Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology in June.

The current funding period for CTRad is due to come to an end in March 2018 and future plans to ensure the coherence it has imbued across the radiotherapy research community is maintained were discussed. There was strong support for continuing the funding for CTRad amongst attendees and further discussions around this are now underway.

CM-Path-logo

Towards the end of 2015, ten of NCRI’s Partners committed to funding the CM-Path initiative. Since then the NCRI Executive has recruited a programme manager to support the running of the initiative. A Chair (Dr Karin Oien, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Pathology at the Institute of Cancer Sciences, University of Glasgow), an Executive Group and members of the initiative’s four workstreams have also been appointed. Together they make up a diverse set of experts – spanning pathologists, clinicians, researchers, funders, NCRI Partners and consumers. These experts met together for the first time under the auspices of CM-Path for the initiative’s launch event on 6 June. There, each of the four workstreams discussed their strategies for the next five years and developed a plan to address these. The implementation of these plans is now being monitored by the CM-Path Executive Group.

A number of specific activities are planned in the coming months:

  • October: Workstream 4 (technology and informatics) are planning to host an industry day to raise awareness of CM-Path amongst the pharma and specialist pathology software development industries
  • November: CM-Path will have a presence at the NCRI Cancer Conference including; a workshop on molecular diagnostics and representation at the Royal College of Pathologists’ stand
  • December: Workstream 2 (clinical trials) are planning a workshop (in collaboration with the Royal College of Pathologists) to explore the role of pathology in clinical trials.

Further information about these activities will be available on the CM-Path webpage (see link below) in due course

» NCRI’s CM-Path initiative

surgery

This is a series of five workshops running over two years in partnership with the Royal College of Surgeons. The first workshop “Trials are only as credible as their endpoints”: defining the future outcomes of surgical research, was held on Wednesday 4 May 2016. The workshop was a success with participants discussing key challenges in the following areas; patient reported outcome measures, pilot and feasibility studies, surgical quality assurance and early phase clinical trials. A set of recommendations has been produced and will be followed up in due course.

The second workshop of the series “Technology Trials in Surgical Oncology”: What evidence is required prior to introduction of new technologies into surgical practice? is due to take place on 20 September 2016. For more information and to register, visit the NCRI surgery webpage below.

» NCRI’s surgery initiative

NCRI’s exploratory work

In addition to progress with our collaborative initiatives, we also discussed some of the exploratory work we are undertaking around some of the research-related recommendations from the Cancer Taskforce report and around a potential new NCRI initiative in living with and beyond cancer.

The report, Achieving world-class cancer outcomes: a strategy for England 2015-2020  published by the Independent Cancer Taskforce in July 2015, set out 96 recommendations for improving cancer outcomes in England and 11 of them were related to research. The NCRI Executive has undertaken an initial scoping exercise, in consultation with NHS England, to determine how the research-related recommendations could be addressed. We are now developing plans to address several of these recommendations and will continue to update Partners as appropriate.

» Read the Cancer Taskforce report

After reporting on our scoping exercise on the potential role for NCRI in undertaking future initiatives to boost research in this area (which included a consultation of key stakeholders in the field) at the 2015 NCRI Summer Meeting, NCRI Partners agreed that this topic should continue to be explored actively in 2015/16. The level of research in this area is relatively low in the UK despite a growing population of people affected by cancer and all indications suggest that, without intervention, research activity in this area will remain at a similar level. The Cancer Taskforce report also includes a number of recommendations around survivorship, providing added impetus to coordinate activity in this area.

The NCRI Executive has therefore scoped out a proposal for a new initiative in this area and presented this to meeting attendees. The proposal centred around an initial 18 month initiative to identify research priorities that are important to people affected by cancer and healthcare professionals (through a James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnership exercise) and developing research capacity and capability in the field (through workshops and activities enabling researchers to build their granstmanship skills).  It is expected that this initial 18 month phase will pave the way forward for the more long-term work that is needed to bring on a step change in this area of research.

We are now consulting with Partners who expressed an interest in committing funding for this initial phase of work and expect to post further updates to our website in due course.

NCRI’s new five year organisational strategy, 2017–2022

As part of our ongoing strategic planning, the NCRI Executive, in consultation with the strategy reference group (representatives from NCRI Partner organisations and Consumers brought together to guide the development of the strategy), commissioned New Philanthropy Capital to lead an afternoon session to identify the goals and opportunities for NCRI in fostering collective action and ensuring the UK cancer research ecosystem functions effectively over the next five years. Lots of interactive discussions and ideas were shared and these will now be fed in to the draft strategy which will be presented to Partners and key stakeholders before a public consultation.