Curing cancer through early detection and precision medicine

Working to improve outcomes for patients everywhere.

Curing cancer through early detection and precision medicine

Our vision is a global future in which early detection and precision treatment are as mainstream to cancer diagnosis and management as an MRI scan is today. 

We will have succeeded when cancers are found before people become sick, when we can spare patients harmful treatments, and when these life-saving approaches are available in healthcare systems around the world.

  • Scientists working

Imagine a future where people never get cancer as we know it, a world where your doctor can accurately test for the early stages of cancer, where you intervene with treatments that are straightforward and relatively non-toxic—maybe even minor surgery—and that’s it.

Professor Richard Gilbertson

A global problem

Cancer is a leading cause of death no matter where you are from. Rapidly escalating treatment costs mean more is spent globally on treating cancer than on any other disease. 

With diagnoses continuing to rise, and many healthcare systems around the world already struggling to cope, this is truly one of the most daunting challenges of our day.

Early detection dramatically increases survival rates

With far too many cancers diagnosed only once patients have symptoms and the disease has already spread, we must become better at developing technologies and tests for early detection.

This avoids the cost to patients and healthcare systems of trying to manage late-stage disease with extensive surgery and highly toxic drugs.

When cancer cannot be found early, we should treat it precisely

Precision medicine unleashes the power of big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to match patients to a course of therapy designed to target the vulnerabilities in their specific cancer, increasing the chances of cure, minimising side effects, and conserving resources.

Cambridge leads the way in cancer research

In October 2018, Cambridge scientist Professor Sir Gregory Winter won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his pioneering work on monoclonal antibodies, a discovery which has revolutionised cancer drug therapy globally.

This 107th Cambridge Nobel Prize is just one example of how the University has profoundly shaped how we understand and treat cancer: from our discovery of the structure of DNA, to the development of rapid genome sequencing, and the creation of the first drug that targets inherited cancer-causing mutations.

A visionary new cancer research hospital

In order to turn our transformative vision into reality, we need to bring the very best of Cambridge science together with clinicians and cancer patients. 

In alliance with the UK National Health Service, we will build a radically new type of cancer research hospital, uniting clinicians with chemists, physicists, engineers, computer scientists, and mathematicians. Together, they will turn scientific breakthroughs into the next generation of cancer diagnostics and treatment.

Located on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, the hospital will be at the heart of Europe’s largest life science cluster, where over 600 researchers, clinicians, and industry scientists are already leading the fight against cancer.



Making sense of cancer’s ‘big data’ problem to revolutionise patient care

A new institute at the University of Cambridge aims to revolutionise cancer care by using cutting edge analytics to maximise the use of big data sets collected from patients.

The Mark Foundation Institute for Integrated Cancer Medicine, announced today, will be funded by an £8.6 million award to the University of Cambridge from The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research – the first time that the New York-based philanthropic organisation has made an award to a UK institution.

The virtual institute aims to exploit recent advances in big data processing and machine learning to capture and integrate clinical, genomic, and image data collated from hundreds of cancer patients in real-time. Laboratory and clinic-based researchers and data experts will work together to determine whether sophisticated computational integration of all these diverse data types into a single platform can inform and predict the best treatment decisions for each individual patient.

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A world without cancer, where the dark corners of the ward are banished to the history books. That’s a pledge worth pursuing.

Professor Richard Gilbertson
Professor Richard Gilbertson

Man on a mission to beat cancer

Thirty years ago, Professor Richard Gilbertson pledged to implement a 15 per cent reduction in mortality from children’s brain cancer. This is the story of what happened next.

On the children’s ward at Newcastle General Hospital in 1986, medical student Richard Gilbertson got his first taste of life as a paediatric oncologist. He looked around the ward and saw a child in a bed, in a dark corner. “She has a medulloblastoma that has returned,” the consultant said.

“What can we do for her?” asked Gilbertson, who had been fascinated by medulloblastomas – one of the commonest malignant brain tumours in children – since his first year of medicine, when he was randomly assigned to do a project on them. “Nothing,” the consultant replied. “The only thing we can do is let her die in peace.”

“I got so angry,” remembers Gilbertson – now Professor – sitting in his airy office on the first floor of the vast glass-and-steel Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute (CRUK CI) at the Li Ka Shing Centre. “It was the 1980s and there was nothing we could do for a child with a brain tumour. That was completely unacceptable to me. And I know it sounds contrived, but I made up my mind from that moment that I was going to do something.”

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Join us on this journey to cure cancer sooner

With your help, one of our highest priorities, our new cancer hospital, will turn scientific breakthroughs into the next generation of cancer diagnostics and treatments. To learn more, please contact:

Shira Schnitzer

Head of Major Gifts — Cambridge University Health Partners

+44 (0)1223 330932 or +44 (0)7720 064987

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