Cancer Research UK is to invest over £100 million across 15 cutting-edge research centres in the country to help get new treatments and diagnostics to patients more quickly.

The investment marks the latest phase in the development of CRUK’s nationwide network of research centres of excellence. This new £100 million of funding will further draw together world-class research and medical expertise to provide the best possible results for cancer patients nationwide, bringing together researchers and support from local universities, the NHS and CRUK, says the charity.

Each centre will focus on specific areas of research, and will aim to raise standards of care and forge links with local communities, it says. Collaboration is key to the success of the network, enabling researchers who do not normally work together to exchange ideas and information more easily, it adds.

A core part of the network’s role will involve training the next generation of cancer researchers. Nearly 200 PhDs will be funded through the network, including around 80 PhDs specifically for cancer clinicians, the largest cancer-focused cohort of clinical PhDs in the European Union. 

The investment follows an extensive process overseen by an international panel of experts who chose the centres with the most potential to deliver advances in cancer research to benefit patients. In total, 21 locations applied to be part of the network of excellence.

Over the next few years, CRUK says it aims to continue the development of its centres of excellence by providing funding to enable those in different locations to collaborate.

Welcoming the news, Professor Margaret Frame, science director of the Edinburgh Cancer Research UK Centre, said that the clinical PhDs are especially important. “Making sure that clinicians have the opportunity to do research as part of their role opens up many opportunities for discovery and innovation in tackling the biggest challenges in cancer research.”

It is also “incredibly important for us to train the next generation of cancer researchers. The pace of discovery is such that we must ensure we’re offering the brightest scientists the opportunity to be part of a very exciting time in the field of cancer research,” added Prof Frame, who is a member of the CRUK Training and Career Development Board.

“We are in a golden era of cancer research” and the research tools at our disposal are “unprecedented,” said CRUK chief executive Harpal Kumar. “We must make sure we have the infrastructure to enable and push the boundaries in translational research. It’s an area that doesn’t get enough support or funding, but it’s a core part of what we must do – get the discoveries out of the lab and to the patient’s bedside.”

“We also have unprecedented opportunities to learn lessons from how individual patients respond to treatments. This can help us better target treatments to patients who will benefit most, but also help to develop new treatments for those who will not,” he added.