As Prof. Matt Seymour steps down from his role as Clinical Research Director at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI), we look back at his impact since he took on leadership of the NCRI Groups in 2010.

NCRI’s early work focussed on building connections between cancer research funders and establishing a database of cancer research funding data to understand areas of strength and weakness in the UK.

Establishing the NCRI Groups

In the years that followed, the organisation’s role diversified to address some of the challenges identified and deliver activities that supported the development of the cancer research community. This evolution included the NCRI Groups, of which Matt was a key contributor, that brought researchers together to collaborate on trial development.

Established as ‘Clinical Studies Groups’ with a focus on clinical research, these groups have since evolved to include broader representation with an expanded remit including early-stage and molecular research as well as translational components. The number of groups has also grown, and their areas of interest have changed as cancer research has progressed. There are now 19 NCRI Groups across cancer sites and cross-cutting research topics that bring together clinicians, scientists and patients, carers and family members, amongst many others.

Key activities that Matt has supported include introducing a programme to include clinical trainees and expanding consumer membership of the NCRI Groups. Matt was also instrumental in establishing a new governance framework to provide oversight of the work of the NCRI Groups, chairing review panels, examining annual reports and conducting recruitment of Group chairs.

Driving focus on screening, prevention and early detection

Matt has also shaped the direction of NCRI by identifying critical areas of strategic need. He championed work in Screening Prevention and Early Diagnosis. The NCRI Screening Prevention & Early Diagnosis (SPED) Group was formed in 2012, to facilitate and aid the development of protocols for studies involving screening, prevention and early diagnosis. The work of this group continues to evolve based on its initial successes.

Identifying priority research areas

As Clinical Research Director, Matt has also been able to identify where challenges exist in cancer research and support NCRI in seizing these opportunities, including focussing on vulnerable groups, including the elderly and those with comorbidities, which are now incorporated into the wider NCRI Living With and Beyond Cancer Group. Matt is also a joint founder of the International Rare Cancers Initiative.

In this role, Matt has shaped both the structure and strategic direction of NCRI. Recently Matt has also supported the NCRI Cancer Conference, participating as part of the scientific committee and provided strategic advice to NCRI through the Strategy Advisory Group.

We would like to thank Matt for all he has done in shaping the development of NCRI. We wish him success in all of his future endeavours and look forward to continuing to work with him through his role at NIHR.