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NCRI has identified four scientific priority areas that need to be addressed to deliver better outcomes for all those affected by cancer.

Health data and artificial intelligence

NCRI wants to ensure the research community is involved in health data science and data infrastructure developments and that health data is accessible to researchers.

The increasing use of patients’ health data in research adds a new dimension to the patient voice. NCRI is supporting patient and carer representatives, through the NCRI Consumer Forum, in their involvement in research projects that use health data.

NCRI has supported several Partners in developing data research and funding strategies. Partners have also engaged with NCRI Groups and the wider research community on devising and delivering data-enabled research and how to use data to improve research delivery.

To educate our audience on developments in this area, as part of NCRI’s virtual event series, Elli Papaemmanuil spoke about advances in genomic profiling and the use of big data. A separate virtual session looked at how we can use big data to reduce cancer inequalities.

Immunology and immunotherapy

NCRI is working with the British Society for Immunology to bring the immunology and cancer research communities together.

We have organised joint events to focus on topics of common interest. These virtual events have covered T and B cell repertoires in cancer and immune-related adverse events in cancer treatment. Cancer immunologists, including Professor Lucie Heinzerling and Professor Karin de Visser, have taken part in NCRI’s ‘in conversation with’ series educating audiences on their specialist areas. Topics covered include the role of the immune system in the pathogenesis of skin cancer and the role the immune system plays in treatment response.

Screening, prevention and early diagnosis

In October 2020, NCRI Partner Cancer Research UK (CRUK) released an Early Detection and Diagnosis of Cancer Roadmap. NCRI, alongside experts from across the sector, contributed to a workshop that provided a series of recommendations that make up the roadmap. NCRI will work with CRUK and utilise the NCRI Screening, Prevention and Early Diagnosis Group to drive progress in the early detection and diagnosis of cancer.

Several experts have shared their insights on this topic through NCRI’s ‘in conversation with’ virtual events series. William Foulkes discussed our current understanding of the genetics of cancer and considered the risk of inherited mutations. Christine Friedenreich addressed the role of physical activity and exercise in the prevention and control of cancer. Edward Giovannucci focused on how nutritional, hormonal, and genetic factors are related to various malignancies, particularly prostate and bowel cancers.

Living with and beyond cancer

NCRI Partner the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has recognised the importance of funding research into prehabilitation in cancer. It launched a programme to increase the evidence base to support health and care services for people with a new cancer diagnosis and the role of prehabilitation in their treatment pathway. Prehabilitation is one of the UK top research priorities for living with and beyond cancer.

To help investigators with ideas for studies and develop them into an application for submission to a funding committee, NCRI hosted a proposals guidance meeting on prehabilitation research. Researchers presented ten proposals to an expert review panel consisting of clinicians, researchers, methodologists and patient and public involvement representatives, and other specialists. Panel members discussed the ideas and gave recommendations on how the researchers might further develop the proposals.

NCRI has kept the community up to date with living with and beyond cancer research through our virtual events series which has covered topics such as public and professional attitudes to dying from cancer and optimising care for people living with and beyond cancer. As part of the ‘in conversation with’ series, Patricia Ganz used breast cancer as an exemplar when considering the assessment of quality of life in cancer patients. Ann Partridge explored the psychosocial and medical challenges faced by people living with and beyond cancer.

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