The Royal Marsden

A team effort: our research partnerships

The best way to tackle cancer is to work collaboratively with leading experts in their field, and that’s what The Royal Marsden does with its research partnerships
Evolving partnership: Dr Samra Turajlic divides her time between The Royal Marsden Skin and Urology units and the Francis Crick Institute

Evolving partnership: Dr Samra Turajlic divides her time between The Royal Marsden Skin and Urology units and the Francis Crick Institute

The Royal Marsden is a centre of excellence, with an international reputation for ground-breaking research and pioneering cancer treatments and technologies.

Together with its academic partner the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), The Royal Marsden is the largest comprehensive cancer centre in Europe, treating more than 50,000 patients every year.

As well as the Trust’s valuable partnership with the ICR, collaborating on research with other organisations is fundamental to improving the lives of cancer patients at The Royal Marsden, throughout the UK and beyond.

“The Royal Marsden is an outward-looking organisation that has national and international collaboration as one of its highest priorities,” says Professor David Cunningham, Director of Clinical Research at The Royal Marsden.

“This is the best way to tackle the complexities of cancer – through sharing data, expertise and experience for the benefit of all cancer patients.”

The Francis Crick Institute

About the organisation

The Francis Crick Institute (FCI) is a biomedical discovery institute dedicated to the understanding of disease development and translation of discoveries into new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, infections, and neurodegenerative diseases.

An independent organisation, its founding partners are the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust, University College London, Imperial College London and King’s College London.

Working in partnership

Dr Samra Turajlic is a Consultant Medical Oncologist in the Skin and Urology units at The Royal Marsden and a CRUK Clinician Scientist at the FCI.

Joint research projects

Dr Turajlic is Chief Investigator of the TRACERx Melanoma and TRACERx Renal translational studies, with the clinical portion of the work taking place at The Royal Marsden and the laboratory studies at the FCI.

“We are analysing how these cancers evolve over time and space from the point of diagnosis through treatment,” says Dr Turajlic. “Our aim is to transform our understanding of cancer evolution and take a practical step towards an era of precision medicine.”

Dr Turajlic is also working on the PEACE study, looking at blood and tissue samples of melanoma and renal cancer patients after death to learn more about advanced cancer, how it spreads, and how and why treatments stop working.

Imperial College London

About the organisation

Imperial College London is consistently rated among the world’s best universities. Its mission is to achieve excellence in research and education in science, engineering, medicine and business for the benefit of society.

Working in partnership

Professor Paris Tekkis and Mr Shahnawaz Rasheed are both Consultant Colorectal Surgeons at The Royal Marsden; Mr Rasheed is a Senior Lecturer and Professor Tekkis is Professor of Colorectal Surgery at Imperial. Professor Lord Ara Darzi is a Consultant Surgeon and holds the Paul Hamlyn Chair of Surgery at The Royal Marsden and Imperial.

Also representing both institutes are Mr Erik Mayer, Consultant Surgeon at The Royal Marsden and Clinical Senior Lecturer at Imperial, and Professor Julian Teare, Consultant Gastroenterologist at The Royal Marsden and Professor of Gastroenterology at Imperial.

“By working together, we can draw on the expertise of a wide variety of scientists,” says Mr Rasheed.

Joint research projects

Professor Tekkis is developing a national registry programme that will detail all robotic procedures carried out nationwide for colorectal cancer patients. Over time, this will enable a valuable comparison with traditional surgical methods, informing surgeons of the best treatment option for individual cases.

Other research with Imperial involves image guidance in surgery and exploring how breath tests could be used to diagnose certain cancers, including those that affect the stomach and oesophagus.

Comprehensive Clinical Trials Unit at University College London

About the organisation

The Comprehensive Clinical Trials Unit (CCTU) at University College London (UCL) works with researchers to design, conduct, analyse and publish clinical trials and studies.

The CCTU is part of UCL’s Institute of Clinical Trials and Methodology along with the Cancer Research UK and UCL Cancer Trials Centre, the Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit at UCL, and PRIMENT Clinical Trials Unit.

Working in partnership

Dr Sanjay Popat is a Consultant Thoracic Medical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden and a Reader in Cancer Medicine at Imperial College London. He is a renowned expert in the treatment of lung cancer, mesothelioma and cancers of the thymus, and has collaborated with the CCTU at UCL on several studies.

Joint research projects

Dr Popat is the Chief Investigator of the national TIMELY trial, which is looking at the drug afatinib for non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in people who are too frail to have chemotherapy.

“People with lung cancer who have never smoked or were light smokers in the past are more likely to have cancer with an EGFR gene change,” says Dr Popat.

“The aim is to see if afatinib helps to stop the growth of NSCLC in frail patients who have, or are suspected to have, a change to the EGFR gene.”

Imperial College Academic Health Science Centre

About the organisation

The Imperial College Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC) is a partnership between The Royal Marsden, Imperial College London, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust. It aims to rapidly translate research discoveries into medical advances.

Working in partnership

The AHSC hosts the National Centre for Mesothelioma Research. Based in the National Heart and Lung Institute of Imperial College, it aims to identify new targets for therapy.

“To show how our research impacts on clinical practice and improving patient outcomes, the AHSC runs regular seminars for staff, patients and the public,” says Professor Julian Teare, Consultant Gastroenterologist at The Royal Marsden and Professor of Gastroenterology at Imperial College.

Joint research projects

AHSC partners are also working to evaluate a new surgical technology, the iKnife, which allows the surgeon to know, in real time, whether the tissue they are cutting is cancerous. Initial studies on patients were undertaken at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

The results were successful and now studies are being extended to The Royal Marsden to see whether the iKnife can improve surgical outcomes for prostate, head and neck, colorectal, testicular, breast and ovarian cancers.

Glasgow Clinical Trials Unit

About the organisation

The Glasgow Clinical Trials Unit is accredited by the UK Clinical Research Network and supports academic and commercial studies.

It provides specialist services from the Glasgow Clinical Research Facility, the Robertson Centre for Biostatistics, and the Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS Research and Development department.

Working in partnership

Dr Susana Banerjee is a Consultant Medical Oncologist and the Gynaecology Unit Research Lead at The Royal Marsden.

“It’s important to work together with institutions that have expertise in a particular disease. Through sharing information and ideas, we can drive forward delivering treatment benefits for cancer patients across the country and internationally,” says Dr Banerjee.

Joint research projects

Dr Banerjee is the Chief Investigator of the OCTOPUS trial, looking at whether a new combination of drugs could improve treatment for women with relapsed ovarian cancer.

It involves using vistusertib (AZD2014), a novel targeted drug, with standard chemotherapy drug paclitaxel.

“We aim to find out if this new drug combination can improve cancer shrinkage and survival compared to standard care,” says Dr Banerjee.

“We are also looking at the impact on the quality of life of our patients, and researching molecular markers that may predict which women will benefit most from the therapy.”