Our research in Cambridge

Last year, we spent over £51m on research in Cambridge to pioneer new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.

Cambridge is home to the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute and the Cambridge Centre, which deliver world-leading research that transforms discoveries in the lab into real benefits for people with cancer.

You can now take a virtual tour around the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute and see inside the labs where our researchers carry out their life-saving work.

Take the virtual tour


Creating virtual reality maps of tumours

Creating virtual reality maps of tumours

With Grand Challenge funding, Professor Greg Hannon, is looking to create an interactive 3D map of a tumour, in order to understand more about how cancer cells behave and interact with normal cells.

Helping more children survive brain tumours

Brain tumour Centre of Excellence

The Children’s Brain Tumour Centre of Excellence, based at the University of Cambridge and Institute of Cancer Research, brings experts together to discover new treatments for tumours in children.

Mapping the genetic landscape of breast cancer to personalise treatment

Professor Carlos Caldas

Professor Caldas is searching for the genes that go wrong in breast cancer. He hopes to use this to personalise diagnosis and treatment, giving patients the best possible chance of survival.

What we’re doing now


Cancer Grand Challenges

As well as Professor Hannon’s virtual reality tumour maps project, several other researchers in Cambridge are involved with Cancer Grand Challenges projects.

For example, Professor Sir Mike Stratton, Director of the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Cambridge, is leading a team that spans five continents and aims to build a deeper understanding of what causes DNA damage and how it leads to cancer. Their work could help prevent more cancers and reduce the global burden of this disease.

At the University of Cambridge, Dr Serena Nik-Zainal is part of a team that is studying tissue samples from women with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) – a condition which can sometimes develop into breast cancer. The team aims to determine how to distinguish between those who need treatment and those who don’t, which could spare thousands of women unnecessary treatment.
At our CRUK Cambridge Institute, Professor Kevin Brindle is working with an international team to develop a “google earth” of tumours, allowing researchers to map tumours in unprecedented detail. The work could lead to new ways to diagnose and treat cancer.
Meanwhile, Dr Doug Winton at the CRUK Cambridge Institute is part of a team that is looking at new ways to tackle cancers linked to chronic inflammation.


Other projects

Launched in 2016, the Early Detection Programme, co-led by Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald and Dr Sarah Bohndiek, sees several different research teams working on a diverse set of challenges – from understanding the origins of cancer to developing inexpensive and non-invasive tools that will help doctors identify the early signs of the disease. Recently, the University of Cambridge was announced as one of five partners that make up the International Alliance for Cancer Early Detection (ACED).

At our CRUK Cambridge Institute, Dr Nitzan Rosenfeld leads a lab group that is using samples of patients’ blood – known as liquid biopsies – to develop sophisticated new ways to detect and monitor cancer. As tumours develop and grow, they release tiny bits of DNA into the blood that can be fished out and analysed. Dr Rosenfeld and his colleagues have shown that this ‘circulating tumour DNA’ (ctDNA) can be used to track how cancers are evolving in response to treatment, and to monitor disease spread.

At the Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Professor Antonis Antoniou is developing tools to predict people’s risk of getting ovarian, breast and prostate cancer. Accurately predicting people’s risk of cancer will mean that those at high risk of these cancers can be monitored to catch the disease earlier and those with low risk can avoid unnecessary screening.

Dr Inigo Martincorena is a group leader at the Wellcome Sanger Institute. He and his team are collecting samples from healthy people and people with early-stage pancreatic cancer to investigate the changes in our DNA that cause the disease. This work could form the basis for new tools that allow doctors to intervene and stop the cancer early, while there are better chances of survival.   

Our Cambridge Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) is a unique partnership between CRUK, the University of Cambridge and Cambridge University hospitals. The Cambridge ECMC brings together lab-based scientists and clinical researchers, enabling them to share ideas and resources to drive the discovery, development and testing of new anti-cancer treatments and tests for patients.

In addition to its adult expertise, the Cambridge ECMC recently became a member of the Paediatric Network, which specialises in early phase clinical trials in children and young people with cancer.

The Cancer Research Horizons sites in London and Cambridge bring together the brightest minds in basic and clinical cancer research, with the rigour and drive of pharmaceutical and biotech companies.


In Cambridge

  • 4,700 people are diagnosed with cancer each year.

  • 55% of cancers are diagnosed early.

  • We spent over £51m on life-saving research in 2020/21.

We receive no government funding for our research. Our life-saving work relies on the money you give us.

Virtual tour

Cambridge Institute

Take a virtual tour around the world-famous Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute.

Or see how to view the tour on your phone, with the option of using a VR headset.

Cancer news

Cancer cells

From cutting edge science and debunking myths to patient stories, read the latest news, analysis and opinion on our news site.

Our strategy to beat cancer

Male scientist with gloves on

For the past 120 years, we’ve been making discoveries that have saved countless lives. But we have so much more to do. Our strategy sets out how we'll accelerate progress towards a better future.