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
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).
2. CTRad going strong
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.
3. New Chair and Trustees
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.
4. The first 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
We’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
2015 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
Earlier 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.
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.
9. Sharing insights internationally
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.
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.