Cancer Research UK has joined forces with two peer organisations in Italy and Spain to fund half a dozen R&D projects – and to show that Brexit need not be a hindrance to UK-EU cooperation.
The link-up with Italy’s AIRC (Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca sul Cancro) and Spain’s FC AECC (Asociación Española Contra el Cáncer) will direct around £30m (around $40m) in funding towards translational research projects in cancer and particularly immuno-oncology.
The awards will cover six projects, all operating under the banner of the Accelerator Award programme and will run over five years. Two are being led by teams in the UK, three in Italy and one in Spain.
As the UK and EU work to form a new relationship after Brexit, the awards are an example of how funding organisations are seeking to continue to collaborate post-Brexit to drive research forward,” said CRUK in a statement.
One UK project – called HUNTER – is getting £5m to look into immunotherapies for liver cancer and will be led by Newcastle University. It aims to develop a network of EU and UK clinicians and scientists specialising in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common form of liver cancer, who will examine the immune environment in liver cancer and see if immunotherapies can be a treatment option.
Another £5m project led by CRUK’s Beatson Institute in Glasgow – ARCCelerate – will concentrate on finding new ways to deliver personalised therapy for bowel cancers. The project will try to identify ways to stratify patients into groups based on drug targets, to lower the risks for those recruited into clinical trials and also reduce the need for animal research.
In Italy, the University of Milan-Bicocca will run the £4.5m INCAR project tasked with supporting research into CAR T-cell therapy, and making them easier to manufacture and so more accessible to patients.
Researchers at Fondazione Centro San Raffaele are getting a £4.8m grant to track cancer cell evolution in organoids, clusters of cells that behave similarly to cells in human organs, to reveal insights about drug resistace and predict treatment options for relapsed patients.
The University of Trento is leading on a project worth around £5m to develop a blood test for advanced prostate cancer treatment selection that can be used to stratify patients into personalised treatment arms in clinical trials.
And finally, in Spain, the Clinica Universidad de Navarra is getting £4.8m to investigate mechanisms of resistance in blood cancers and identify new treatment approaches.
“No single organisation or country is going to beat cancer on its own,” commented Dr Iain Foulkes, executive director of research and innovation at CRUK.
“Research must be prioritised as the UK builds a new relationship with the EU, as much-needed breakthroughs in treatment are dependent on collective action from the international research community.
“Our Accelerator Award funding will lay the groundwork for a Europe and UK research pipeline, boosting our life sciences industry, and ensuring basic biological research translates into new innovative treatments in future.”
CRUK recently published a report alongside seven other medical research funders and charities calling for close ties between the UK and EU27 post-Brexit on areas such as collaborative research, clinical trials and training.