Joining Forces against Cancer

(February 17th, 2016) The upcoming London Cancer Hub will be an international centre for pioneering cancer research, treatment, education and enterprise. It is expected to boost cancer drug discovery by delivering two extra cancer drugs every five years.

This ambitious project is a coming together of three partners, the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and the London Borough of Sutton. The London Cancer Hub will be based in Sutton, South London, at the existing site of the ICR and The Royal Marsden. “The initiative aims to build on the world-leading position the partners already hold in drug discovery and development. The ICR is a global leader at discovering new cancer drugs – with 20 drug candidates identified since 2005 alone – and The Royal Marsden is an international centre of excellence for cancer treatment,” the press release states.

The London Cancer Hub envisions itself as “a global centre for cancer innovation providing state-of-the-art facilities and delivering real benefits for patients”. The ICR, together with the Royal Marsden, is the only NIH Research Biomedical Research Centre for Cancer and rates among the top four cancer centres worldwide. Collectively, they form the “largest and most comprehensive cancer centre in Europe treating over 50,000 NHS and private patients every year”. They cooperatively run the Drug Development Unit on the site – and it has flourished into one of the largest phase I clinical trial centres in the world.

For instance, it was at this very location that the prostate cancer drug Abiraterone, a steroidal androgen synthesis inhibitor, was discovered in the early 1990s and where its first clinical trials took place. Similarly Olaparib, “the first cancer treatment to be targeted at an inherited genetic fault (…) was tested in Sutton in early trials led by the ICR and The Royal Marsden”. Moreover, other chemotherapeutic drugs like Busulfan, Chlorambucil, Melphalan and Carboplatin were also developed here. Furthermore, this site is also responsible for the development of “modern high-precision radiotherapy techniques, which shape beams of radiation to precisely fit the contours of a tumour”.

The London Cancer Hub will integrate the existing facilities, thereby doubling the space currently available at this site for translational ‘bench to bedside’ research and therapy. The area of 265,000 square meters will facilitate close and productive collaborations between 10,000 scientists, clinical and support staff, all at one location. It is estimated that “the ICR alone will be able to deliver at least two extra cancer drugs every five years, increasing its present output by 40%, from five drugs to seven”. This boost in drug discovery is expected to subsequently translate to an increase in clinical trials.

To fulfil the goal of creating “an exceptional healing environment for patients and their families”, the campus will offer state-of-the art infrastructure for research, hospital facilities, a school, restaurants, leisure spaces, and hotel accommodation for visitors and patients. This venture will require a multi-billion pound investment with the new drug discovery facilities of the ICR alone costing about 65 million pounds. The project seeks financial support from public grants, charities, philanthropy, private investors and commercial rental income.

This new and improved campus endeavours to provide scientists, clinicians and private companies a platform for successful and intensive interactions that will benefit all in the fight against cancer. The London Cancer Hub thus aspires to join the league of other internationally renowned life science campuses, as mentioned in the roadmap document. These include the Biopolis in Singapore (a life-science technology park that brings together biomedical research institutes with global and local biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, and national governmental bodies), The White City Campus in London (A joint venture between the Imperial College London and Voreda to develop a campus that will closely incorporate academic and commercial ventures), and the St. Olav’s Hospital in Norway (a redevelopment of an existing research and hospital campus to increase space, streamline navigation and encourage collaboration between staff).

Besides directly benefitting patients, and those working in cancer research and care, the project promises to also add value to the local community. This will be achieved by the creation of roughly 13,000 jobs and training opportunities for locals. In addition, the London Cancer Hub is expected to annually generate five million pounds in business rates and 1.1 billion pounds for the UK’s Life Science Industry. A rather win-win initiative for all involved!

Latika Bhonsle

Picture: London Cancer Hub

Last Changes: 03.02.2016