Historically there have been no widely accepted methods by which to evaluate the quality of radiation oncology research programmes. Between 2014 and 2017 NCRI’s CTRad designed and led a pioneering benchmarking ‘Centres of Excellence’ exercise* which defined internationally relevant criteria for measuring the quality of multidisciplinary radiotherapy research activity.

Initially, NCRI’s CTRad identified five key areas and developed criteria within each of them as benchmarks. 19 UK radiotherapy centres were then invited to participate in the exercise, submitting self-assessments for each area for two periods (2005-2009 and 2010-2015) and providing supporting evidence. The submissions were then reviewed by an international multidisciplinary panel and evaluated according to the agreed criteria. Three centres achieved ‘Centre of Excellence’ status for the 2010-2015 period, while four were defined as ‘Emerging Centres of Excellence’.

The exercise demonstrated improvements in nearly all centres between 2009 and 2015. The robust metrics of research quality provided leverage and incentive for centres to increase local activity and engagement. This continues to strengthen the UK’s position as a leader on the international stage for radiotherapy research.

Prof. Joe O’Sullivan, Academic Chair of Radiation Oncology at Queen’s University Belfast said, “Involvement with NCRI’s CTRad enabled our department to understand what was required to become a ‘Centre of Excellence’ and provided opportunities to learn from other centres about how to construct successful programme grants.”

The ‘Centres of Excellence’ exercise also inspired and and informed the development of CRUK’s RadNet initiative – a national network of Centres of Excellence in radiotherapy, which was announced in 2018.

NCRI’s ‘Centres of Excellence’ exercise brought the research community together to define internationally relevant criteria for measuring multidisciplinary radiotherapy research activity. This was a pioneering piece of work which has played a pivotal role in strengthening UK radiotherapy research, and was led by CTRad.

Prof. Neil Burnet, Chair in Clinical Academic Proton Therapy at The University of Manchester

*NCRI’s Centres of excellence benchmarking exercise was presented at ESTRO2018.