Cancer

The University of Manchester’s approach to cancer research spans the full spectrum of combating the disease.

One in two of us will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during our lifetime. Cancer may be one illness, but there are over 200 types – and a diagnosis affects whole families.

Breadth of our research

The University of Manchester’s medical research ranges from understanding the molecular and cellular basis of cancer to the development and testing of novel drugs and other therapeutic approaches. Through nursing, psychology and policy work, solutions to the physical, emotional and economic impacts of cancer are being researched and put into practice across the University.

Led by world-renowned scientists such as Professor Robert Bristow, Professor Sir Salvador Moncada and Professor Richard Marais, cancer research at the University has the academic strength to match the weight of our partnerships and the benefits of our location.

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Making a difference

At The University of Manchester we know the value of working together with others. We break down barriers and get involved; we collaborate across disciplines, cultures and countries to solve global problems; and we transform people’s lives by making positive change across the world.

Manchester is contributing to improving the evidence base for the treatment and detection of cancer, both in the UK and globally, including in India where our researchers have increased survival rates of children with leukaemia by 15% in just four years.

What we are doing in India is just a small distillation of our impact globally. We owe it to society to turn our knowledge back to the bigger global society so we can benefit everyone on this planet. 

Professor Vaskar Saha / Professor of Paediatric Oncology

Discover how our academics are sharing lessons learned in Manchester for the benefit of global populations.

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University of Manchester infographic: cancer
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Reach and impact

Our links with NHS organisations and cancer charities – as well as the support of the local population – make for an unrivalled beacon of research, where outstanding clinical work is leading to innovative techniques and personalised treatments.

Through the Manchester Cancer Research Centre we work with Cancer Research UK and The Christie NHS Foundation Trust to turn research findings in the laboratory into better, more effective, treatments for cancer patients. The Centre’s new building houses 150 researchers and world-class facilities for imaging and sample analysis.

Our trials led to anastrozole replacing tamoxifen as the major endocrine therapy for breast cancer, a development that has benefited 1.5 million women globally. Our partnerships with companies such as AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline bring new drugs to the market.

And we’re reaching out to where help is needed most – such as in Uganda, where our academics and medics are helping to roll out a national programme of cervical cancer screening.

Cancer is a disease that affects so many, in different, often devastating, ways. At The University of Manchester we want to loosen cancer’s grip and improve the lives of those it affects.

Cancer: Research breakthroughs

Global challenges, Manchester solutions

Saving children’s lives across the globe

Global challenge

Leukaemia is the most common cancer in children and teenagers, and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is the most common type of childhood leukaemia. ALL is a particularly rapid and aggressive form of cancer requiring immediate treatment.

Manchester solution

Our researchers have made a significant contribution in the UK, which now has an 85% cure rate for childhood ALL, one of the highest in the world. Direct results of our research in ALL also include a 10% improvement in outcomes for relapsed cases in the UK, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand. Changes in clinical practice based on our research are now national standards of care for children with ALL in the UK and Ireland and our relapse protocol underpins European practice. Our researchers have increased survival rate of the disease by 15% in India in just five years.

Fighting the obesity epidemic

Global challenge

Being overweight or obese is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK after smoking, contributing to around 18,100 cases of cancer every year. More than 60% of the UK population is categorised as obese and this is expected to increase.

Manchester solution

Manchester researchers were the first to prove a link between weight gain and cancer, identifying that obesity is directly linked to 20 different types of the disease. Recently, we have shown that increased weight in childhood is linked with increased risk of bowel cancer later in life. This knowledge is now being used by public health professionals and clinicians globally to increase awareness of the role of a healthy diet and lifestyle in preventing cancer.

Improving radiotherapy

Global challenge

Radiotherapy plays a major role in cancer therapy. However, the individual nature of a patient’s cancer makes it difficult to accurately target the therapy. Tumour tissue can be missed and unnecessary side-effects caused.

Manchester solution

Manchester is home to the UK’s first high-energy NHS proton-beam therapy centre, where researchers and clinicians work in parallel to better tailor and target radiotherapy. We’re improving understanding of the errors and variation in treatment planning, and using real-time imaging to help adapt personalised therapy plans as tumours shrink or move. This will improve outcomes for patients in terms of survival and quality of life.

Preventing breast cancer

Global challenge

Breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer and cancer mortality in women worldwide. Nearly 1.7 million new cases were diagnosed in 2012, representing 25% of all cancers in women.

Manchester solution

We have developed new approaches to endocrine therapy – treatment that blocks the body’s natural hormones – for breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Our work has increased the duration of survival of women with advanced breast cancer, reduced relapse rates and improved survival after surgery for early breast cancer. It has also successfully prevented disease in women considered at high risk.

Saving lives through earlier detection

Global challenge

Mortality rates for lung cancer are the highest of all cancers as diagnosis generally happens at an advanced stage. Early detection of the disease is necessary to increase survival rates.

Manchester solution

Our innovative mobile screening project, which located mobile screening units in supermarket car parks in traditionally hard to reach areas, found one case of cancer for every 33 detected, a threefold increase compared to conventional approaches. Our novel approach, targeting the traditionally hard-to-reach populations, improving lung cancer survivorship by detecting lung cancer earlier and has demonstrated an ability to shift diagnosis from late to
early stage disease, resulting in more lives being saved.

Developing new treatments

Global challenge

Clinical trials are essential for introducing new treatments and developing better standards of care across all types of cancer.

Manchester solution

We are home to the world’s largest early-phase clinical trial treatment unit and are world leaders in conducting clinical trials. Our pioneering study of gemcitabine and platinum helped establish the regimen as the standard first-line treatment of advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in Europe, and at the turn of the century we treated the first-ever NSCLC patient with gefitinib, paving the way for a new era of personalised treatments for lung cancer.

Liquid biopsies for lung cancer

Global challenge

Lung cancer has one of the lowest rates of cancer survival: fewer than 10% of patients survive five years after diagnosis. More targeted therapies are needed but the biopsies required to profile patients’ tumours are invasive and not without risk.

Manchester solution

Manchester has world-class expertise in blood-borne biomarkers. By detecting and characterising tumour cells circulating in the blood, we can identify faults, target them with smart drugs and then select the most appropriate treatment all without the need for surgery. We can create patient-relevant laboratory models to test new therapeutic strategies and to better understand mechanisms of resistance and relapse.