Three senior researchers based at The Christie have won prestigious honours from the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR).

Professor Tim Illidge, Professor of Targeted Therapy and Oncology, received the RCR Gold Medal, the highest honour the college can award and made in recognition of his ‘enormous national and international contribution to clinical oncology’. 

Prof Illidge is the first Manchester-based recipient of the award since Professor Ralston Paterson in 1966. Prof Paterson was a world-leading authority on treating cancer with radiotherapy and gave his name to the building on Wilmslow Road in Withington which was badly damaged by fire in April 2017.

Professor Catharine West, Professor of Radiation Biology, received an honorary fellowship, the most prestigious award that can be made to someone who is not a fellow of the college. It is awarded to individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to, or promoted the interests of, clinical oncology or clinical radiology. In Prof West’s case it was awarded for her work in radiation biology.

Meanwhile, Professor Neil Burnet, Professor of Academic Proton Clinical Oncology and Honorary Academic Consultant at The Christie, was the only oncologist among four people to win an Exceptional Contribution Award, an honour that recognises those who have dedicated a significant amount of time and service to the RCR.

The college praised Professor Burnet’s academic work ‘investigating the safe delivery of complex radiotherapy’, and highlighted the advanced radiotherapy course his team has run for the last 15 years for the RCR’s oncology faculty.

Prof Illidge, who lives in Disley, is head of the division of cancer services at The University of Manchester and oversees a large number of academic staff. He said: “The medal came as a tremendous surprise but of course I’m really honoured and humbled to receive it.

“Awards such as this are always the result of a big team effort so it’s recognition of all the hard work my colleagues at The University of Manchester and The Christie have put in. I am thrilled that three of us from Manchester were honoured at the awards ceremony which shows that we are recognised as being at the forefront of clinical oncology in the UK.

“There have been very few oncologists to have won the gold medal in the last 50 years and it is great that Manchester has got this recognition again.”

Prof West, who lives in Alderley Edge, said: “I’m naturally thrilled to become an Honorary FRCR. It is an honour to be only the fourth radiobiologist to receive the award amongst so many clinicians, including those from outside the UK, who have made such important contributions to improving radiotherapy for cancer patients.”

Prof Burnet, who lives in Romiley, joined The Christie in February this year after spending 21 years in Cambridge, based at the university and at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, where he was Professor of Radiation Oncology.

He said: “It’s a huge honour to receive this award in the company of my colleagues from Manchester.  I hope that over the years our work has made a significant improvement to patient outcomes, and I am delighted now to have joined the dynamic team at The Christie.  We are on the brink of several major advances in radiotherapy, and Manchester is in the vanguard.”


The awards took place at the RCR’s annual Admission of Fellows ceremony at Westminster Central Hall in London.