International research projects
Cancer Research UK funds research into all aspects of cancer from exploratory biology to clinical trials of novel and existing drugs as well as epidemiological studies and prevention research. We support research in a variety of different environments, including university research groups, core funded Institutes, and the Cancer Research UK Centres. We receive no Government funding for our research.
Our world-class scientists, doctors and nurses collaborate with cancer experts in over 50 countries, working together to fight cancer, and have contributed to most of the world’s top cancer drugs, including tamoxifen, herceptin and temozolomide. We pioneered the use of radiotherapy treatments, with shorter treatment schedules and fewer side effects.
Cancer Research UK has increasingly become involved in international research collaborations, some driven by Cancer Research UK scientists (e.g. genome-wide association studies epidemiology studies in China/Iran) and others where we engage as international partners (e.g. International Cancer Genome Project, EU initiatives). Clinical trials are very often international and are likely to become increasingly so as we identify smaller patient subsets of different cancer types. However, Cancer Research UK usually only funds the UK component of an international clinical trial.
We have also led the way in key aspects of cancer control, particularly tobacco control, where we have become internationally recognised for the leadership role we have played in securing international agreements in this area.
For more information on international projects please click on the links below:
Researchers in our five Institutes and in joint Department of Health/Cancer Research UK funded Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres (ECMCs) receive core funding from Cancer Research UK to ensure the necessary research infrastructure is in place to support world-class research. These researchers are also encouraged to apply for project grants from other funding bodies and several receive support from Europe.
For example, the London Research Institute (LRI) and Cambridge Research Institute (CRI) are particularly experienced in successfully applying for EU funding. These institutions receive support through a number of streams including European Research Council (ERC) Starting and Advanced Grants; the Cooperation (Health) theme; Marie Curie Fellowships (Intra-European and International Reintegration); and Marie Curie Initial Training Networks funding.
Cancer Research Technology Limited (CRT) is the technology development and commercialisation arm of Cancer Research UK. In some respects, CRT has become the most visible international arm in the Cancer Research UK Group.
It has a presence in the US through CRT Inc, its subsidiary based in Boston, Massachusetts, which is developing an increasing number of relationships with US biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies and plays an important role in CRT's marketing and commercialisation activities. As one of seven partners, CRT acts as the commercialisation vehicle for Cancer Therapeutics CRC Pty Ltd (CTx), one of the largest public/private partnerships of its type in the world. The CTx consortium involves the Australian Government and a group of Australian research institutions, such as the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute in Melbourne.
Cancer Research UK funds the UK arm of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC), the largest-ever study of the links between diet and health. Important discoveries, such as the link between excessive red meat consumption and cancer, continue to flow from this work and will inform cancer prevention strategies that will save lives in the future.
The (International Breast Cancer Intervention Study) IBIS-II trial follows IBIS-I, which was designed to investigate the use of tamoxifen in preventing breast cancer in women with a higher risk of developing the disease. Recruitment of women to IBIS-I ended in March 2001 and the results of the study showed that tamoxifen reduced the incidence of breast cancer by one third in these high risk women but with some serious side effects. IBIS-II was designed to continue the work started in IBIS-I by examining the role of anastrozole in the prevention of breast cancer. Women are being recruited for the trial from more than 240 centres worldwide.
Cancer Research UK is part of the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC). The ICGC aims to obtain a comprehensive description of genomic, transcriptomic and epigenomic changes in 50 different tumour types and/or subtypes of clinical and societal importance across the globe. Cancer Research UK has put forward proposals to be a significant contributor to projects on prostate and oesophageal cancer.
We have applied to participate in an Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) project researching imaging biomarkers, being coordinated by the European Organisation for Research and Treatment in Cancer (EORTC). This project has been successful in the initial bid stage and is progressing well to the next stage of negotiations.
Professor Jack Cuzick runs the internationally renowned Centre for Epidemiology, Mathematics and Statistics at the Wolfson Institute in London. The department carries out a huge range of research on many different cancer types, and is concerned with cancer prevention and screening, especially for breast, cervical and bowel cancers. For example, Professor Cuzick led a major international trial confirming the long-term benefits of anastrozole. The drug has been found to help stop breast cancer coming back or developing in the other breast in post-menopausal women with hormone-sensitive early breast cancer. More than 9,000 post-menopausal women in 21 countries were involved in the trial.
The Clinical Trials Service Unit and Epidemiological Studies Unit at the University of Oxford chiefly focus on studies of the prevention and treatment of cancer and other major chronic diseases (such as heart attack and stroke). Professor Sir Richard Peto is co-director of both Units and helped to run a pioneering 50-year long study that further established the links between smoking and cancer.
- Tobacco research: Professor Peto's research with Professor Sir Richard Doll into smoking has influenced the health policies of governments across the world and helped save millions of lives. His landmark work on tobacco includes showing that half of all long-term smokers will die of their habit, but that stopping at any time helps to reduce risk. He continues to study the effects of tobacco across the world in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO).
- Improving clinical trials: Professor Peto has also improved the way in which scientists run and analyse clinical trials. His Unit promotes international collaboration between scientists and runs some of the largest trials in the world. These include 'mega-trials' of new treatments for different types of cancer, including leukaemia, breast cancer and bowel cancer. Professor Peto was also instrumental in developing a technique called 'meta-analysis', which combines the results of several different trials and provides an overall analysis of their results. By combining the data from trials of breast cancer treatments, he showed that women of all ages could benefit from treatment with the drug tamoxifen. The finding changed clinical practice, helping save thousands of women's lives every year. The Unit is now running similar world-wide reviews of leukaemia, bowel cancer and prostate cancer trials.
Cancer Research UK plays a key role in coordinating the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership. This programme is working to identify the root causes of survival differences between countries/jurisdictions with comparable health care systems and high quality cancer data. The hope is that the programme will generate insights and actions which will help all partners improve cancer survival. There are eight countries involved in the project – England, Northern Ireland, Wales, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Canada and Australia. The programme has five modules of work exploring the underlying reasons for delays in diagnosis and treatment and differences in the quality of treatment across the partnership.
Cancer Research UK is also a member of the International Cancer Research Partnership, a unique alliance of cancer organisations working together to leverage their resources and maximise the benefits of the worldwide expansion in cancer research. The Partnership believes that access to information about what research is being conducted and co-ordination among funding agencies are critical to these efforts. In 2004, the ICRP launched an online research portfolio to allow organisations and cancer researchers worldwide to view current research awards from all of the Partner organisations. This structured dataset improves researchers’ ability to identify potential collaborators, helps avoid duplication and/or facilitates replication by giving information on current research awards funded by other organizations and provides opportunities for identifying appropriate peer reviewers. The ICRP database enables partner funding organisations to analyze their own research portfolios in the context of the international dataset.
ICRP plans a significant expansion over the next few years and to facilitate this, Cancer Research UK is also participating in the EU-funded TRANSCAN ERA-NET (European Research Area Network). Cancer Research UK’s contribution, in partnership with the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI), is to co-ordinate an analysis of cancer research funding in Europe at the grant level.
Many of the staff at our five core-funded Institutes have worked, or come from, outside the UK. Additionally, a large number of our more senior scientists have worked abroad and are therefore part of the international network trying to beat cancer. They share experience and knowledge, and benefit from the cross-fertilisation of ideas across the international landscape. This is further enhanced by the international dimension of all our peer review processes – both through referees for individual grant applications and through membership of site visit parties. The Clinical Trials team includes a member of staff who works specifically on international issues and assists cooperation on clinical trials with other countries. Our CEO and other senior staff participate in international conferences and seminars.
We have a small number of international high value donors.
The charity’s Council of Trustees and its Committees feature several leading international figures. Recent examples have included:
- Professor Anton Berns, Director of Research and Group Leader, Netherlands Cancer Institute
- Professor Harold Varmus, American Nobel Prize-winning scientist and the current Director of the National Cancer Institute. He now also serves as one of three co-Chairs of the President of the United States' Council of Advisors on Science and Technology
- Professor Suzanne Cory, director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) in Australia from 1996 until 2009
Our China Fellowship Programme has to date brought over 20 Post Doctoral Fellows from China into Cancer Research UK-funded labs in the UK. Each Fellow comes for three years. Of the first “intake”, about half returned to China, with the other half remaining in the UK in various roles from continuing with their original laboratories to joining Merck.
As well as being members of the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) and a significant contributor to the EORTC Foundation, we also belong to the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), Smoke Free Partnership (SFP), and the UICC (Union for International Cancer Control).
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