A letter from the Directors
Cancer will affect roughly one in every three people at some point in their lives, and improving its prevention, diagnosis, and treatment remains a major challenge for medical science. The Hutchison/MRC Research Centre is a state-of-the-art cancer research facility that arose from a unique collaboration between the Medical Research Council (MRC), the University of Cambridge and Cancer Research UK (CRUK). It was made possible by a generous donation from Hutchison Whampoa Ltd., and is now a leading site for basic and translational cancer research in Cambridge.
The Hutchison/MRC Research Centre houses the MRC Cancer Cell Unit (Director: Ashok Venkitaraman), elements of the University Department of Oncology (Head: Professor Sir Bruce Ponder) and laboratories of the Cambridge Molecular Therapeutics Programme (led in the Hutchison/MRC Research Centre by Ashok Venkitaraman, and in the University basic science faculties, by Professor Sir Tom Blundell). Our aim is to bridge the gap between basic cancer research and clinical practice through innovative, interdisciplinary research in three major areas - cancer biology, cancer diagnosis, and cancer therapy. Interdisciplinary collaboration is key to the success of researchers within the research centre. We work with partners from disciplines as varied as clinical medicine, chemistry, biochemistry, physics, and mathematics, to unravel the molecular and genetic differences that distinguish cancer cells from normal cells, and to exploit these differences for cancer diagnosis and treatment. The Hutchison/MRC Research Centre houses active clinicians as well as basic scientists, enabling the rapid translation of discoveries made at the research bench into clinically viable applications at the patient’s bedside. Indeed, our work is facilitated by our location at the Addenbrooke's Hospital site, a leading centre for cancer research, enabling fruitful interactions with colleagues in the NHS, the CRUK Cambridge Research Institute, an outstanding cohort of neighbouring MRC laboratories, and in the clinical and basic science departments of the University of Cambridge.
Since our official opening in May 2002, researchers in the Hutchison/MRC Research Centre have made significant progress in deepening our understanding of the biology of cancer cells, addressing, for example, the mechanisms that regulate DNA replication and lead to the instability of chromosome structure and number, and that specify pathways for normal and abnormal differentiation from stem cells. Work in the Hutchison/MRC Research Centre is also having a major impact in the area of cancer diagnosis. Our scientists have identified a number of novel molecular markers that promise to improve early diagnosis in a range of malignancies. We are proud that many of our faculty, young scientists and students have received prestigious prizes, reflecting the clinical and commercial value of their work.
Ongoing efforts also focus on the development of new approaches to cancer therapy. Laboratories of the Cambridge Molecular Therapeutics Programme (CMTP), an interdisciplinary initiative at the University of Cambridge, are located in our research centre. The CMTP aims to pioneer new approaches for the discovery of chemical leads against novel or difficult molecular targets, the use of small molecules for biological studies ('chemical biology'), and the clinical development of anti-cancer drugs through deeper understanding of biological processes.
The Hutchison/MRC Research Centre places much importance on graduate training programmes funded by the MRC, CRUK, Wellcome Trust and other sponsors, to train the cancer scientists and clinicians of the future. We have been fortunate to attract students of very high quality, with a high representation of clinician-scientists, to these programmes. Their efforts, as well as the dedication and hard work of our centre's administrative and support staff have been an important factor underpinning the success of our research. We are delighted that research in the Hutchison/MRC Research Centre has been able to make important contributions to the fight against cancer in a relatively short space of time, and look forward to maintaining the momentum of our progress in the future.