The UK set out its stall to be a nerve centre for cancer research around the world yesterday, with the announcement of a network of research centres across the country that will be funded by the government and charity Cancer Research UK.

The 17 Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres (ECMC) have been selected for their scientific and clinical excellence, and from April next year will each receive around £2 million over the next five years to drive new anticancer treatments to patients.

The aim is to make sure that basic science discoveries are developed into treatments for cancer patients as quickly as possible, according to a spokesman for the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI), which will oversee the project.

The funding will cover clinical, laboratory and NHS infrastructure costs enabling centres to bring together laboratory and clinical research, sharing knowledge and resources for the benefit of cancer patients.

The funds will underpin the translational work needed to develop new anticancer drugs and diagnostics from the laboratory into clinics and then to test them in early clinical trials, according to the NCRI. It will be overseen by Prof Herbie Newell, who serves as director of translational research at Cancer Research UK.