A new institute opening at the University of Cambridge aims to conduct research that will detect cancer early enough to cure it.
The Early Cancer Institute (ECI) is the UK’s first physical institution dedicated to understanding early cancer.
It will house as many as 120 researchers who will focus on cancers that are difficult to treat and therefore have very poor outcomes.
These include lung, pancreatic, esophageal and liver cancers – and acute myeloid leukemia.
Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald, the institute’s director, said: “People tend to shy away from early-stage cancer research, but unless we do this work, we won’t improve survival rates for the majority of our patients.” because most patients are still diagnosed late.
“Outcomes can be completely transformed if the cancer is diagnosed early enough and we have the right treatments.”
She added: “Cambridge has a rich history of making huge strides in cancer research, from developing the technology that allows us to sequence the DNA of tumors to pioneering new approaches to treatment, such as the use of monoclonal antibodies and Parp. inhibitors.
“We want to build on this legacy of discovery and innovation and apply it to early cancer.”
One of the researchers is Professor Serena Nik-Zinal, who uses whole genome sequencing to look for “fingerprints” on the DNA of tumors that provide clues about how cancer started.
While Dr. Matt Hoare will try to find out why genetic mutations in chronic liver disease significantly increase the risk of primary liver cancer.
The Institute is located in the Hutchinson Building on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, close to partners such as the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, the Wellcome-MRC Stem Cell Institute and the recently opened Heart and Lung Research Institute, three hospitals and the major pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and GSK.
According to Prof. Fitzgerald, this is one of only four life science ecosystems in the world – and the largest in Europe – that provide the capacity, critical mass and integration of science and medicine to transform patient care.
A new hospital – Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital, which could begin construction by the end of next year – is also planned for the campus.