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Sheffield scientists set to get £1 million boost for cancer research

20 Dec 2016

Sheffield scientists and clinicians are set to receive nearly £1 million pounds from Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health Research over the next five years to continue their ground-breaking work at the city’s Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC). 

The Sheffield ECMC is a collaboration between scientists at the University of Sheffield and the clinical trials unit based at Weston Park Cancer Hospital, part of the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

Around 100 doctors, nurses and scientists in the city are devoting their energies to developing innovative, more effective cancer treatments. Their specialist areas include bone metastases, the tumour microenvironment, thoracic cancers, radiotherapy, and rarer tumours.  

The ECMC gives people with cancer access to cutting-edge treatments by testing new ways of detecting and monitoring the disease and how it responds to treatment through early phase clinical trials.  Sheffield has been chosen by an international panel of experts as one of just 18 locations in the UK to secure funding in the latest review of the ECMC’s network. 

Co-lead of the centre, Professor Sarah Danson, from the University of Sheffield, said: “We are very proud that Sheffield’s ECMC status has been renewed.  Over the past five years we have increased the number of clinical trials we’re offering patients and this investment means we will be able to continue our work in developing new cancer drugs – getting discoveries from the laboratory to clinical trials in patients and learning as much as possible from our patients to initiate new research.

“This award represents a critical investment in the research infrastructure at Sheffield, equipping us with the key laboratory and clinical tools needed to advance the understanding and treatment of cancer for the benefit of people in Sheffield and beyond.”

Sir Andrew Cash, Chief Executive for Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Sheffield has a long history of pioneering cancer research, and this funding is another major development which builds on our excellent partnership with the University of Sheffield.

“This vital funding will enable our expert doctors and scientists to continue to develop some of the most promising and innovative new cancer drugs in the hope that they can become established treatments for future patients.”

The ECMCs aim is to bring better treatments to cancer patients in the UK faster through both the adult and children’s network of Centres. They are hubs where promising cancer treatments – including small molecule drugs, surgery, radiotherapy, immunotherapy, and vaccines – are safely tested through clinical trials.

Professor Dame Pamela Shaw, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health at the University of Sheffield, said: “This announcement means the Sheffield ECMC can continue to pioneer new treatments to give cancer patients a brighter future. Cancer will affect one in two of us in our lifetime, but our ground-breaking research means that patients in our region benefit from revolutionary treatments. We are very proud of the team of Sheffield cancer doctors led by Professor Sarah Danson who secured this prestigious award.”

Nicola Blackwood, Minister for Public Health and Innovation, said: “We want to lead the world in fighting cancer. The work of ECMCs is crucial to achieving this aim. This next phase of funding from the National Institute for Health Research will help our world-leading researchers to continue to make new discoveries. I hope this funding will ultimately lead to the development of life-saving treatments for patients.”

Over the last year 1,468 cancer patients across South Yorkshire have taken part in clinical trials.

Every year, 29,900 people are diagnosed with cancer in Yorkshire and The Humber.**

Nicki Embleton, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Yorkshire, said: “This award is recognition of the fantastic research taking place in Sheffield. 

“One in two of us will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in our lives – so it’s reassuring to know that, thanks to our supporters, Cancer Research UK is able to fund some of the best and most promising research here, in Sheffield, to help more people survive. 

“Survival has doubled since the early 1970s and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress – but every step our doctors, nurses and scientists take relies on donations from the public and the tireless fundraising of our supporters.”

Additional information

What is a clinical trial?

All new drugs and treatments have to be thoroughly tested before they can be licensed and made available to patients, to make sure they’re safe. This process takes time because developing a new drug involves various stages of testing. 

A new drug is first studied in the laboratory to see how it works and how it affects cancer cells. If it looks promising, it enters clinical trials, where doctors test the drug in cancer patients. New drugs are only licensed, prescribed and used as a treatment if they show good results in clinical trials.  

The phases of clinical trials

There are between three and four phases of clinical trials that all new drugs have to go through before they can be licensed and prescribed for patients:

•     Phase 1 trials recruit a small number of patients (up to about 30) to find out about a drug or treatment’s side effects, the best dose of it to give patients, and if it works the same way in patients as it does on cells in the lab.  

•     Phase 2 trials recruit more patients (up to about 50) and look at the effect the treatment or drug has on cancer cells and if it benefits patients

•     Phase 3 trials are much bigger (hundreds or even thousands of patients), and compare the new treatment or drug to the standard treatments and drugs being used to see if it is better.

•     Phase 4 trials are carried out after a drug has been licensed. They aim to find out more about the longer term side effects and benefits of new treatments and drugs, and how well they work when used more widely.

Although many drugs start life in phase 1 trials, they don’t all get as far as phase 3 or phase 4 trials and the licensing process because they either don’t work or they cause too many side effects.

For more information on clinical trials visit the About Cancer pages at or call Cancer Research UK’s cancer information nurses on 0808 800 4040 (Freephone, Mon-Fri, 9am,-5pm).

For more information, visit

The ECMCs are: Barts ECMC; Belfast ECMC; Birmingham ECMC; Cambridge ECMC; Cardiff ECMC; Edinburgh ECMC; Glasgow ECMC; ICR ECMC; Imperial ECMC; KHP ECMC; Leicester ECMC; Liverpool ECMC; Manchester ECMC; Newcastle ECMC; Oxford ECMC; Sheffield ECMC; Southampton ECMC; UCL ECMC; and a Paediatric ECMC network.

**Approximation based on annual average figure of around 29,900 cases of all cancers (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) diagnosed between 2012-2014 in Yorkshire and The Humber.

The science at the ECMCs:

The ECMCs aim to bring better treatments faster to cancer patients in the UK through both the adult and children’s network of Centres. They are hubs where promising cancer treatments – including small molecule drugs, surgery, immunotherapy, and vaccines – are safely tested for the first time in patients. These Centres help give people with cancer access to cutting-edge treatments and precision medicine by testing new ways of detecting and monitoring the disease and how it responds to treatment.

The adult and paediatric ECMC Networks support some of the best clinical science in experimental therapeutics at the forefront of cancer research in the UK.  ECMCs are a partnership between a university and at least one NHS Trust/Board which act as an efficient and effective hub to assist in the delivery of early phase cancer studies across the Network of UK sites to enable faster and more personalised patient benefit.

The ECMC Initiative was launched in 2007 as a partnership between CRUK and the DHs collectively. 1,500 new early phase trials over ten years in 35 cancer types were reported within the Network, providing access to innovative treatments to 18,000 patients. In addition, ECMCs have been able to leverage over £155 million from industry towards clinical trials and pre-clinical research in experimental medicine.

Cancer Research UK

•     Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.

•     Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.

•     Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on every pound donated.

•     Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last forty years.

•     Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, 3 in 4 people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years.

•     Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.

•     Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK’s vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.

For further information about Cancer Research UK’s work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit Follow us on Twitter and Facebook

University of Sheffield

With almost 27,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2016 and was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education in 2014. In the last decade it has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

For further information, please visit

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals is one of the UK’s largest NHS Foundation Trusts and one of the largest and busiest teaching hospitals. We have over 16,000 staff caring for over a million patients each year at our five hospitals and in the local community:

 •     The Royal Hallamshire Hospital

•     The Northern General Hospital

•     Charles Clifford Dental Hospital

•     Weston Park Cancer Hospital

•     Jessop Wing Maternity Hospital

We offer a full range of local hospital and community health services for people in Sheffield as well as specialist hospital services to patients from further afield in our many specialist centres. The Trust is recognised internationally for its work in neurosciences, spinal injuries, renal, cancer, transplantation, neurosciences and orthopaedics.

Thanks to the hard work and commitment of our staff and volunteers, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has been given an overall rating of ‘Good’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) with many services rated as ‘Outstanding’.

This means the Trust is one of only 18 (out of 174 Trusts) to have achieved a Good rating in every one of the five domains which the Care Quality Commission use to rate a NHS organisation: Safe, Caring, Responsive, Well led, Effective

We are proud to be one of the top 20% of NHS Trusts for patient satisfaction and to have consistently high numbers of our staff and patients who would recommend the Trust for care and as a place to work.

The Trust is a recognised leader in medical research for bone, cardiac, neurosciences and long term conditions such as diabetes and lung disease. We also play a key role in the training and education of medical, nursing and dental students with our academic partners, including the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam. The Trust is a recognised leader in healthcare innovation and is host to a number of national projects including the Perfect Patient Pathway Test Bed, Devices for Dignity, Yorkshire and Humber Genomics Centre as well as being a partner in the Working Together Vanguard and National Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine.

For more information visit:

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