Miss Jenny Rusby, Consultant Oncoplastic Breast Surgeon

Miss Jenny Rusby, Consultant Oncoplastic Breast Surgeon

As the only NIHR Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) dedicated to cancer, The Royal Marsden and its academic partner, The Institute of Cancer Research, London (ICR), are uniquely placed to deliver groundbreaking translational research.

Now, The Royal Marsden is setting up four new ‘hubs’ in which multidisciplinary teams with a shared focus on a particular area will work together to drive progress. These areas – early diagnosis, artificial intelligence imaging, surgical research and biotherapeutics – are key priorities for the BRC and, thanks to a new £5-million research grant from The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, will help us accelerate new and improved ways of diagnosing and treating cancer.

Early diagnosis

Along with the ICR and RM Partners Cancer Alliance, The Royal Marsden is establishing an Early Diagnosis and Detection Centre to speed up diagnosis and improve outcomes.

Early-diagnosis research leads Professor Ros Eeles, Dr Richard Lee and Professor Stanley Kaye are leading discussions to create a centre – supported by a £1.2-million grant from the Charity – that will bring together research and expertise across multiple tumour groups, recruit for specialist roles and set up a new clinical trials infrastructure.

Dr Lee, Consultant Respiratory Physician and Champion for Early Diagnosis, whose role is funded by the Charity, says: “The centre will focus on liquid biopsy technologies to aid detection, AI and imaging for more accurate diagnoses, as well as advanced risk-stratification science using genetics and ‘big data’ to identify high-risk groups who will benefit most from early diagnosis.”

AI imaging

The Artificial Intelligence Hub for Imaging will bring together academic and clinical teams to develop AI tools that can be applied to patient treatment and care in the clinic. It will enhance collaboration and the speed at which we take research and use it to benefit patients.

Dr Christina Messiou, Co-Director for the AI Imaging Hub and a Consultant Radiologist, says: “Until now, academics have worked in universities designing amazing technologies, but without the input from NHS teams in hospitals who understand the clinical challenges. “The hub will mean academics and NHS staff can work together on technology that will benefit patients. I believe we are building a digital-ready workforce, and our new hub will resemble what an NHS radiology team will look like in 10 years.”

Surgical research

Royal Marsden Consultants Dr Shaman Jhanji and Miss Jennifer Rusby are leading the hospital’s new Perioperative and Surgical Research Unit, which aims to create a cohesive infrastructure to foster research in these areas.

The unit will facilitate projects to improve all phases of the patient’s surgical pathway, including early detection, operative procedures (including minimally invasive surgery) and impact on survivorship. It will also focus on perioperative medicine (care before, during and after surgery), such as pain management, personalised risk stratification and sepsis research. The Charity’s grant is funding research staff roles, as well as a research fellowship programme.

Biotherapeutics

The Cancer Biotherapeutics Research Unit will support our work in cellular therapies, immunotherapies and virotherapies. Dr Emma Nicholson will lead on the development of cellular therapy for haematological cancers, while Dr Andrew Furness is the lead for solid cancers.

Approaches such as tumourinfiltrating lymphocyte (TIL), T-cell receptor (TCR) and chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapies all harness the power of T cells, a key immune cell, to eliminate cancer.

The additional Charity funding will help expand the team so the unit can develop more clinical studies and associated translational work. Dr Furness says: “Cellular therapy could help expand the reach of immunotherapy to more patients, including those with tumour types that fail to respond to existing immunotherapies.”