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Early Cancer Institute

Prof Sir Bruce Ponder toasts new Institute

Wednesday 21st September saw the official launch of the Early Cancer Institute at the University of Cambridge. Located in the Hutchison building on the Cambridge biomedical campus, the Institute is the first physical location in the UK solely dedicated to research into Early Cancer.

The launch event commenced with a lunch for approximately 40 VIP guests giving them the opportunity to meet the seven research group leaders whose labs are housed within the Institute, as well as a small number of associates from other University of Cambridge departments whose work includes some aspects of early cancer research and demonstrates the breadth of our collaborations. The guests were able to meet the researchers, view posters and discuss their work in a relaxed setting.

Following the lunch, over 150 delegates gathered in the Clifford Allbutt lecture theatre to hear a keynote address from Professor Sir Mike Richards, Chair of the UK National Screening Committee, who gave an excellent and informative potted history of cancer screening, right back to the test developed by George Papanicolaou as a research method for understanding the menstrual cycle. Papanicolaou recognised the potential of the test to screen for cervical cancer and presented his findings in 1923. His research met with huge scepticism and the “pap” test did not become widely used until the 1960s.

Institute Director Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald then gave an overview of the vision of the Early Cancer Institute – to create a world where people no longer fear cancer. Ultimately, the Institute will house 120 researchers whose work will address three big issues identified as barriers to detecting cancer at an earlier stage when it is easier to treat, and patient outcomes are vastly enhanced. These issues are: Risk Prediction – how can we accurately predict who might develop cancer and which cancers might become lethal; Detection – how can we accurately detect cancer if it is present and Interception – how can we stop cancer if it is found?  

Ending the talks, Professor Richard Gilbertson then spoke about the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre, which he directs, and explained how the Early Cancer Institute, together with the Centre’s other physical Institutes, virtual Institutes and foundational programmes, are working together to solve real-world problems with world-class science.

With the official part of the day over, delegates then made their way to the impressive surroundings of the Fellows’ Bowling Green at Trinity College for a garden party. Professor Sir Bruce Ponder, founder of the CRUK Cambridge Centre, gave a toast to congratulate Rebecca and her vision and diligence which has led to the founding of the new Early Cancer Institute.

It was wonderful to be able to mix freely with so many guests and we are very excited for what is in store for our Institute. We hope you will join us at our forthcoming new seminar series, which commences in October.

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