A brief history of The Christie

The Christie was named in honour of Richard and Mary Christie who were instrumental in setting up the cancer centre.

Confronted with new diseases such as mule spinners' cancer and chimney sweep's cancer, doctors started looking for possible links to machine oils and airborne soot. At this time there were 30 beds and 463 patients each year.

Early treatments including extracts of cow stomach juice with some staff were fearful about contracting cancer.

But early work became the forerunner of many cancer treatment breakthroughs made by researchers at The Christie. Milestones throughout the 20th century included:

  • 1901 - use of X-rays for therapy
  • 1905 - use of radium for therapy
  • 1932 - development of the "Manchester Method" of radium treatment
  • 1944 - world's first clinical trial of Stilboestrol a breast cancer drug
  • 1970 - world's first clinical use of Tamoxifen a breast cancer drug
  • 1986 - world's first use of cultured bone marrow for leukaemia treatment
  • 1991 - world's first single harvest blood stem-cell transplant
  • 1996 - inventing photo-dynamic therapy for skin cancer
  • ….and 'world firsts' are still continuing in the 21st century.

Surgery was suspended in 1915 because of first world war work, and during the second world war Christie staff had to keep the radium safe from potential bombing whilst they carried on treating patients.

From 1931 The Christie was linked with the Holt Radium Institute which gave radium treatments for patients in local hospitals. The two institutions then moved from Stanley Grover to a new building in Withington, south Manchester, where The Christie's main site remains to this day

In the 1930s and onwards, Dr Ralston Paterson built a team of physicists and clinicians who turned the hospital into a world recognised centre for the treatment of cancer by radiation. The Christie set the first international standards for radiation treatment in 1932.

Dr Paterson's wife, Dr Edith Paterson, started research work at the Christie in 1938 - initially alone, unpaid and having to provide her own equipment. She too became a world-renowned pioneer in biological dosimetry, childhood cancers and anti-cancer drug treatment methods.

In 1948 The Christie became part of the newly created NHS.

Dr Eric Easson was appointed Director of The Christie following Dr. Paterson's retirement in 1962, and remained as Director until his retirement in 1979.

His initial interest was in leukaemia and he became internationally known for his work on curability. Early detection of cancer was his abiding concern and for eight years he was chairman of the Commission on Cancer Control of the International Union against Cancer (the UICC). He was also the President of the Royal College of Radiologists from 1975 until 1977, and was awarded the CBE in 1978.

Many subsequent clinical and scientific staff members have made significant contributions to research, education and clinical developments - lending their expertise to the broader UK and world community.

For over 100 years The Christie has played a crucial role in the advancement of cancer treatment and care.

We are one of Europe's leading cancer centres but have always retained our treasured 'family spirit', with the patient being at the very heart of everything we do.

Our world firsts and proud moments have continued into the 21st century…

  • 2002 - World's first clinical use of image guided radiotherapy on a radiotherapy machine
  • 2008 - Survival rates following surgery for bladder cancer recognized as better than anywhere else in UK
  • 2008 - First UK hospital to be accepted as a member of Organisation of European Cancer Institutes. First UK organization to be officially accredited as a Comprehensive Cancer Centre, becoming just one of only eight centres to have this status in Europe
  • 2009 - First trials in Europe undertaken for pioneering radioimmunotherapy cancer treatment
  • 2010 - In September a Christie School of Oncology, the first of its kind in the UK, was launched
  • 2010 - Signed a £14million private patient joint venture with HCA International in 2010 to develop The Christie Clinic - a new private patient cancer unit to increase income for our NHS services
  • 2010 - Opened a £17million radiotherapy centre in Oldham
  • 2010 - The Christie's patient treatment centre housing the world's largest single site early phase clinical trials unit and largest chemotherapy facility in the UK opens
  • 2011 - Opened a £17million radiotherapy centre in Salford
  • 2011 - Two new surgical theatres opened
  • 2012 - Launched The Christie's 20:20 Vision to transform cancer treatments and improve outcomes for patients, following year-long engagement phase with many of our stakeholders
  • 2013 - Opened a £3.8million brachytherapy and molecular radiotherapy unit, housing the UK's largest brachytherapy service
  • 2013 - Launched a mobile chemotherapy unit to bring Christie care closer to home for patients in Bolton, Failsworth, Hyde, Rochdale and Trafford

Last updated: May 2023