First experts move into new world-class cancer research facility at The Christie

Press release posted 15 May 2023

World-leading scientists, clinicians and operational staff are now moving into a new £150m cancer research centre at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust’s site on Wilmslow Road in Withington. The building is part of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre – a highly successful partnership between 3 powerhouses of innovation, The Christie, Cancer Research UK and The University of Manchester – and will be one of the top cancer research centres in the world. 

Together, a multidisciplinary team of over 300 scientists and researchers and 400 clinicians and operational staff, the largest concentration in Europe – practising what is known as ‘team science’ – will deliver clinical trials covering the full extent of the patient pathway, from prevention and novel treatments to living with and beyond cancer. 

The new research centre replaces a previous building that was severely damaged in a fire 6 years ago. It is unique in that it is directly connected to The Christie hospital, allowing cells and samples from patients to be taken to the research lab in a matter of minutes. The ambition is to foster collaboration, double the number of patients benefitting from clinical trials by 2030 and ultimately improve outcomes and survival rates. 

Researchers from the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute were relocated to Alderley Park in Cheshire after the fire and are the first to move into the building. They will be followed shortly by colleagues from The Christie and The University of Manchester’s Division of Cancer Sciences. Research teams will be co-located in laboratories to allow for maximum scientific interactions. 

A central component of the building is the new Cancer Research UK Cancer Biomarker Centre which will be situated on the third floor. The Cancer Biomarker Centre’s focus will be on biomarkers* – genes, proteins and other cancer-associated molecules – to aid in early cancer detection and diagnosis, and biomarkers that enable personalised management of a patient’s cancer, to determine which therapy will bring the most benefit. 

Discovering and delivering robust, accurate biomarker tests is central to optimising future cancer treatments. The more biomarkers we develop and deliver, the more personalised treatment pathways can be developed, meaning improved outcomes for patients. The facility will be one of the leading biomarker centres in the world, analysing the patients’ samples from across the country and from global clinical trials to accelerate new medicines for patients. 

Understanding cancer from every angle will be a big focus for researchers. The centre will be Manchester’s scientific headquarters for the Alliance for Early Cancer Detection and will also house a team focused on global genomics, or how cancer presents differently in people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. 

The Christie is the largest provider of radiotherapy in the NHS, so it makes sense that the new research centre will be home to a Cancer Research UK RadNet-supported programme that’s looking at, among other things, how the immune system can be harnessed to improve radiotherapy cures. It will also house an Academy of Surgical Oncology, something very few cancer centres have. 

The centre complements the partnership’s team science in the neighbouring Oglesby Cancer Research Building (OCRB). It will help increase the critical mass of research activity on The Christie site, but it will also be home to the Cancer Research UK Cancer Biomarker Centre and the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute.

Lee Young has cancer of the unknown primary (CUP) and is currently on a clinical trial at The Christie. He says: “It’s fantastic to have a new world-class cancer research centre here in Manchester. The work that’s going to happen in the new building is so important to improving outcomes for people like me. My doctors said that if I’d been diagnosed with CUP a few years ago, there would have been no treatment options for me. Luckily, I was able to go on a clinical trial at The Christie and it’s working so well that I was able to do a half marathon during treatment. It’s purely thanks to research that I’ve got a second chance at life and I’m relishing every moment of it.”

Roger Spencer, chief executive at The Christie, comments: “The Christie has been at the forefront of cancer research for over 120 years. Standard treatments that were first trialled here have improved the outcomes for millions of cancer patients across the world. This new centre allows us to build on this legacy, so it’s exciting to see the vision become a reality. 

“We want to give every patient who walks through our doors the best possible treatment and care. Having so many different specialists collaborating together under one roof will help us deliver more trials, more effectively, leading to better outcomes for patients. Together, our ambition is to make the facility one of the top 5 cancer research centres in the world.” 

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, comments: “As the world’s largest charitable funder of cancer research, Cancer Research UK is at the forefront of the global fight against the disease, bringing together millions of people who share our determination to beat it. 

“Co-locating the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute with The Christie fulfils our strategy of delivering scientific breakthroughs which translate into treatments for patients. I’m delighted to see teams moving in and look forward to seeing our researchers find faster routes to new prevention measures, tests and treatments.” 

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, president and vice-chancellor of The University of Manchester, comments: “The new research building will be a fantastic opportunity to accelerate cancer research in Manchester, not just because it will provide state-of-the-art facilities, but because it will bring together a fantastic workforce comprised of scientists, clinicians and support staff, including trainees, early career researchers and world-renowned investigators. It will enable staff from The University’s Division of Cancer Sciences to work side-by-side with colleagues from the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute and The Christie, generating new ideas, making new discoveries and devising next-generation therapies. 

“Together with the proton beam therapy centre and the Oglesby Cancer Research Building, the new facility will be the latest piece of the cancer campus jigsaw, generating a vibrant, high-quality environment for our highly motivated research teams, all seeking to improve the lives of cancer patients, not just in Manchester but worldwide.”

* Scientists can use biomarkers to do several things: to detect cancer early when there is more chance of cure, to identify a person’s tumour type, to predict what treatment might be best for a patient, to monitor the cancer to see whether a treatment is working, and to anticipate when a tumour might become resistant to a particular treatment, so they can change treatment.

You can see a timelapse video of the cancer research centre being built below.

Last updated: May 2023