The translation of new discoveries in the laboratory into better treatments for patients is a priority for the Cambridge Cancer Centre. Onco-innovation provides a collaboration point for our colleagues in the pharmaceutical industry as well as members from University departments in the physical sciences. It is the combination of disciplines that provide the greatest opportunity for innovation and novel approaches.
Physical scientists are working closely with biological and clinical scientists to gain greater understanding of interactions that occur at the single cell level using novel sequencing, imaging, and nanotechnologies. Examination of diseases at single cell resolution, both at diagnosis and after treatment, will transform the practice of molecular medicine by improving the quality of patient diagnosis, refining treatment options, monitoring the response to treatment, and detecting the emergence of resistance to treatment. Cambridge scientists have been at the forefront of basic research in single cell expression profiling and the analysis of circulating tumour DNA, as well as setting up local biotech ‘spinout’ companies that develop novel single cell technologies.
MRC funding has enabled the creation of the Cambridge Single Cell Analysis Clinical Core Facility, a new shared core facility for single cell analysis that will serve all major molecular medicine programmes in Cambridge: cancer, neurosciences, immunity and inflammation, infectious diseases, stem cell and regenerative medicine, metabolic medicine and experimental therapeutics. The facility will work closely with strategic partners in the Cambridge area such as the Babraham Institute, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, the European Bioinformatics Institute, the MRC Laboratory for Molecular Biology and major pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to bring their different capabilities to bear on clinical research challenges.
A major goal is to support the development of cross-disciplinary laboratories to explore, invent and develop novel technologies and new ways to analyse data. Training programmes in Chemical Biology, Computational Biology, and Cambridge Cancer Centre studentships require this as part of the research project. The aim is to bring together researchers from the physical and life sciences, mathematics, statistics and computer science, engineering and clinical medicine working together in integrated laboratories on the hospital site. These interactions will serve as an ‘incubator’ for ideas to be generated and evaluated and will facilitate high risk, cross-disciplinary collaborations.
The Cambridge Cancer Centre promotes and supports interdisciplinary research through the funding of pump priming grants. The grants are to support cross disciplinary activities between different groups with a focus on cancer. This provides support for novel and high risk projects with a clear connection to Cancer. The titles of recent grants are below:
- The role of fumarate as epigenetic modifier in renal cancer
- Development of stapled peptides to inhibit K-Ras proteins
- Generation and Characterization of Liver Cancer in vitro
- Organoid Models Development of Novel Nanocarriers for Cancer Theranostics using DNA Nanotechnology
- Investigating the morphological & proliferative heterogeneity of human glioblastoma by temporal microscopy-based phenotyping
- The mechanics of glioblastoma Cancer in 4D: high-throughput sequencing and lineage tracing of tumours in situ
- Voltage control of oncogene function using next-generation super-resolution nanoscopy
Cambridge is a hub for innovation and enterprise with a vibrant biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, hosting over 160 life science spin-offs and established businesses. The Cambridge Cancer Centre is building a Therapeutics Consortium, which will connect the intellectual know-how of several large academic institutions with the drug-developing potential of the pharmaceutical industry to deliver better drugs to the clinic.
Cancer Research UK has teamed up with Cambridge-based research company MedImmune to form the newly-opened CRUK-MedImmune Alliance Laboratory with the aim of accelerating the translation of cancer research into potential new drugs. AstraZeneca is due to open its new global headquarters in Cambridge in 2017. The new building on the Biomedical Campus, near Addenbrooke’s Hospital and many world-renowned research institutes, will house 2000 staff.