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Leaders appointed for new cancer research centre

Leaders appointed for new cancer research centre

A major new interdisciplinary research centre has been launched with the aim of putting Leeds at the forefront of global efforts to tackle cancer.

Leeds Cancer Research Centre (LCRC) is a partnership between the University and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. It will bring together outstanding scientists and clinicians across discipline boundaries to deliver world-leading cancer research that ultimately improves patient outcomes.  

The centre provides an excellent platform to link the laboratory to the clinic, enabling convergence of our strengths in structural biology, clinical research, physical sciences and engineering.

Sir Alan Langlands, Vice-Chancellor

By combining research excellence and state-of-the-art infrastructure in discovery biology, physical sciences, engineering, artificial intelligence (AI) and clinical research, the centre will unlock new insights in cancer biology, and accelerate the translation of exciting new treatments and technologies to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. 

We will foster a vibrant interdisciplinary community that pushes the boundaries of cancer research.

Professor David Sebag-Montefiore, Clinical Director

World-class leadership 

Two internationally acclaimed researchers have been appointed to lead the centre

The Clinical Director is Professor David Sebag-Montefiore (pictured right), a clinical oncologist who has led clinical trials that have revolutionised the treatment of anal and rectal cancers using radiotherapy. 

He directs the Leeds Cancer Research UK Centre of Excellence for Radiotherapy Research. In 2019, he was awarded the prestigious Gold Medal by the Royal College of Radiologists recognising his outstanding international contribution to Clinical Oncology. 

“I am passionate about bringing together the best minds from traditionally distinct disciplines to solve the big research questions that will improve the lives of cancer patients,”  he said. “This simple and powerful objective is at the heart of what the new research centre will do.

We will create new opportunities for collaboration between the laboratory and clinic, and foster a vibrant interdisciplinary community that pushes the boundaries of cancer research.” 

Leeds will generate world-leading research that will shape better patient outcomes.

Professor John Ladbury, Scientific Director

The Scientific Director is Professor John Ladbury (pictured left), whose ground-breaking research has shown how disruption to the signalling system within a cell can trigger cancer. He has worked at some of the world’s most prestigious cancer research institutions and was previously Executive Dean of the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University.

He said: “I am excited by the opportunity to bring researchers together at the biological, clinical and physical sciences interface, and harness new innovative approaches to accelerate and translate scientific discoveries to the clinic. 

“Through active research partnerships with the trust, leading institutions, industry and funders, Leeds will generate world-leading research that will shape better patient outcomes". 

Professors David Sebag-Montefiore and John Ladbury are excellent appointments, with proven track records of internationally-renowned research.

Sir Alan Langlands, Vice-Chancellor

Sir Alan Langlands, Vice-Chancellor, said: “Cancer research is at the heart of the University’s strategy and we are fully committed to high standards in cancer care and the science that underpins it.  

“The LCRC provides an excellent platform to link the laboratory to the clinic, enabling convergence of our significant strengths in structural biology, clinical research, physical sciences and engineering to address one of medicine's toughest challenges. 

“Professors David Sebag-Montefiore and John Ladbury are excellent appointments, with proven track records of internationally-renowned research and collaboration. Their combined leadership will ensure that Leeds is at the forefront of the international effort to fight cancer.”

LCRC will build not only on the strong reputation for cancer research at the University but also at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. The trust runs the Leeds Cancer Centre at St James’ Hospital, one of the leading cancer treatment centres in the UK. 

Julian Hartley, Chief Executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We are proud to work in collaboration with the University of Leeds and LCRC to support world-leading research as an integral part of patient-focused care.

“As a leading cancer centre our aim is always to provide the best and most effective treatments for our patients. We believe that by fostering closer links between clinicians and scientists, we can transform our understanding of cancer and accelerate the development of new and kinder treatments.”

Curing cancer remains one of the biggest global challenges. Each day, there are around 450 deaths in the UK and 26,000 deaths globally, according to figures from Cancer Research UK. Moreover, experts predict a surge in newly diagnosed cases following the covid-19 pandemic.   

The LCRC will bring interdisciplinary teams of researchers together including biologists, chemists, engineers, data scientists, clinicians and experts in AI, and create new opportunities for collaboration. They will have access to some of the most advanced experimental facilities in the world, including the University's Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology and Bragg Centre for Materials Research.  

The Centre will also train and nurture the next generation of top-flight cancer researchers.

Professors Ladbury and Sebag-Montefiore said: “We have very talented community of early career researchers including PhD, postdoctoral and University Academic Fellows. The centre will provide the ideal training environment to develop our future interdisciplinary cancer research leaders.” 

Research excellence at Leeds

LCRC will build on a strong research base across the University and NHS in Leeds, including: 

  • Leeds CRUK Radiotherapy Research Centre of Excellence combines artificial intelligence, magnetic resonance imaging and new drugs with radiotherapy to target pelvic, liver and brain cancers. It is part of a national network RadNet
  • The Leeds CRUK Clinical Trial Unit performs groundbreaking work to identify better and less toxic treatments for patients with blood cancers and treatments involving radiotherapy.
  • Leeds researchers are working with scientists across five countries to address a CRUK funded Grand Challenge. They are working out how microorganisms in the body, called the microbiome, can be used to treat bowel cancer. 
  • Biologists in the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology use structural and imaging approaches to understand the molecular and cellular basis of cancer and to discover new routes towards future therapies.
  • Researchers in the STORM laboratory are developing a new generation of intelligent robotic endoscopic instruments to enable earlier diagnosis, wider use of screening and more effective treatment for cancer. 
  • The UKRI-funded Centre for Doctoral Training in AI for medical care and diagnosis is training a new generation of researchers and innovators to transform cancer diagnosis and treatment. 

Further information

For more information about the Leeds Cancer Research Centre, please contact Dr Danielle Battle on 0113 34 30912 or D.Battle@leeds.ac.uk

For interview requests please contact David Lewis, Press Officer at the University of Leeds, on 0113 34 32049 or D.Lewis@leeds.ac.uk

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