Leading brain cancer expert appointed as inaugural brain tumour charity neuro-oncology chair in Manchester
Professor Petra Hamerlik, one of the world’s leading experts in neuro-oncology, has joined The University of Manchester to develop translational brain tumour research as the first-ever The Brain Tumour Charity Chair of Translational Neuro-Oncology.
Professor Petra Hamerlik started at The University of Manchester within the Manchester Cancer Research Centre (MCRC) and Geoffrey Jefferson Brain Research Centre (GJBRC) on September 1 2022.
Professor Hamerlik takes on this role alongside her role at AstraZeneca where she is a Director and Bioscience Lead in Oncology R&D. Prior to her role in AstraZeneca, Professor Hamerlik was Group Leader for the Brain Tumour Biology laboratory within the Danish Cancer Research Centre with an affiliation as an associate professor at the University of Copenhagen.
Bringing her expertise in neuro-oncology, Professor Hamerlik will build a programme focussed on the development of pre-clinical patient-derived xenograft models and capabilities to inform on central nervous system (CNS) tumour biology and the discovery of novel targets for drug and immunotherapy treatment.
The newly-created Chair role has been made possible thanks to a grant worth around £1.35 million from The Brain Tumour Charity – the largest dedicated funder of research into the disease globally.
Speaking about her appointment, Professor Petra Hamerlik said: “I am very excited about this unique opportunity and hope to leverage both my academic and industrial experience to synergise with an outstanding network of scientific and clinical researchers in Manchester. My ambition is to build a platform of evidence which would serve as a stepping stone to redefining the care and thereby improving the outcome of patients suffering from this deadly disease."
In the UK, on average more than 12,000 people are diagnosed with a brain or other CNS or intracranial tumour every year. Five-year survival for individuals is also low, with only 12% surviving the disease, underpinning the need for further research and treatments.*
Professor Rob Bristow, Director of the MCRC, which is a partnership formed in 2006 by The University of Manchester, Cancer Research UK and The Christie NHS Foundation Trust said: “I am thrilled that Professor Hamerlik is joining our cancer research ecosystem and catalysing brain cancer research in Manchester. The new models and biomarker approaches that she brings for the detection and treatment of this devastating tumour will not doubt place Manchester as one of the leading research programmes in translational CNS research.”
I am very excited about this unique opportunity and hope to leverage both my academic and industrial experience to synergise with an outstanding network of scientific and clinical researchers in Manchester. My ambition is to build a platform of evidence which would serve as a stepping stone to redefining the care and thereby improving the outcome of patients suffering from this deadly disease
Neuro-oncology is a growing area of research in Manchester. In 2021, the GJBRC was established with specific themes to accelerate neuro-oncology. In the same year, The Christie and Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust (now Northern Care Alliance) were named as a Tessa Jowell Centre of Excellence. Professor Hamerlik will work to leverage the teams and infrastructure across Manchester with the ultimate aim of identifying new treatments for patients with brain tumours.
Professor Stuart Allan, Co-Director of the GJBRC, said “Petra’s appointment comes at a very exciting time for translational neuroscience research in Manchester with the launch last year of the GJBRC. The ambition of the GJBRC is to improve the lives of patients affected by neurological disease, with brain tumours a primary focus. Attracting Petra to Manchester is an important step in realising this ambition’”.
Professor Graham Lord, Vice-President and Dean of the Faculty of Biology , Medicine and Health at The University of Manchester, said: “We are delighted to welcome Professor Petra Hamerlik, one of the world’s leading experts in neuro-oncology, to The University of Manchester. The low survival rates for people who have brain cancer emphasises the need for further research and treatment to combat this devastating disease. Professor Hamerlik’s world renowned expertise in this area will be a great asset to our work at Manchester which aims to bring us closer to doing just that.”
Dr David Jenkinson, Chief Scientific Officer at The Brain Tumour Charity, which funds world-class research and trusted support and information services, said: “We are incredibly excited that Professor Petra Hamerlik has been appointed as the inaugural The Brain Tumour Charity Chair of Neuro-Oncology, which will be a major boost to brain tumour research here in the UK.
“With over 5,400 people still losing their lives to this devastating disease every year in the UK, we urgently need to accelerate progress towards new and kinder treatment options. Professor Hamerlik’s appointment will be critical to establishing a world-leading research centre in Manchester, helping attract the brightest minds to the field in this country and maximising opportunities to collaborate to help us find new therapies faster.
“Thanks to the amazing generosity of our supporters, we’re immensely proud to be able to invest £1.35m to support this transformational role for the next five years. With such a strong track-record in translating breakthroughs from the lab bench through to improved care in NHS hospitals, Manchester represents a really unique research environment to catalyse much-needed progress for thousands of families affected by brain tumours – and we’re delighted that Petra has joined to lead and drive this work forward. A cure can’t wait.”