A new multidisciplinary research facility launched in the UK by The Royal Marsden hospital and The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) will hasten the cause of personalised medicine by monitoring whether new-generation cancer drugs tested in ‘smart’ clinical trials are hitting their molecular targets.

The Centre for Molecular Pathology (CMP) consolidates the academic partnership between The Royal Marsden and the ICR, which together form the UK’s only Biomedical Research Centre specialising in cancer.

The three-storey building at The Royal Marsden’s site in Sutton, Surrey brings together clinicians, geneticists, pathologists and scientists to conduct studies in molecular pathology, establish molecular diagnostics to aid cancer-treatment selection, develop predictive molecular biomarkers for the clinical development of oncology drugs, and identify new molecular targets in a range of tumour types.

The facility incorporates four laboratory suites over two floors as well as support facilities with state-of-the-art equipment. There is a dedicated molecular diagnostics laboratory, a tissue sample storage facility, and an entire floor dedicated to drug development.

The CMP was officially opened by Professor Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England.

The project was financed through capital funding awarded by the Department of Health to the National Institute for Health Research Specialist Biomedical Research Centre (£11.3 million), The Wolfson Foundation (£1.5 million) and The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity (£4.3 million).

Detailed insight

With the facilities available in the CMP, “we will be able to obtain detailed information about whether a drug is hitting its molecular target and how long it is remaining effective for – for example, by measuring biomarkers that detect target inhibition in tissue such as hair follicles,” noted Dr Michelle Garrett, a team leader at the ICR and collaborator with The Royal Marsden.