Department of Oncology


Foreword from the Head of Department

Professor Sir Bruce Ponder FRS

There is a new sense of optimism in cancer research. Advances over the past decade have led us to the point where our understanding of the molecular and cellular biology of cancer is ready for practical application in the clinic. The challenge now is to turn this knowledge into real benefits for patients.

Cambridge has all the qualities to be a leader in this revolution in cancer research and treatment. We have world-class science and technical innovation. The Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (Addenbrooke’s Hospital), which contains the Regional Cancer Centre, is on the same campus as world-leading science laboratories in the University School of Clinical Medicine, the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology and four MRC Units, and the campus has space for further development. Also close by are laboratories with strong cancer research interests such as the Wellcome Trust Sanger Centre, which contributed 30% of the human genome sequence, the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Gurdon Institute, which has expertise in gene regulation and developmental biology, and the Babraham Institute, which has expertise in epigenetics.

Recognising this potential, over the past 10 years we have started to build a Cambridge Cancer Centre, one that forges the links to make this vision happen. Several important factors have laid the foundations for future success:

  • establishing a nucleus of world-class laboratory research in three new buildings adjacent to the Hospital: the CRUK Cambridge Research Institute/Li Ka Shing Centre, the Hutchison/MRC Research Centre and the Strangeways Laboratories for Genetic Epidemiology;
  • promoting the interaction between researchers and clinicians from many disciplines right across Cambridge, as well as biotech and pharma companies, to create an exciting new research community;
  • ensuring the high quality of the cancer service in the Hospital; without this, application of our research will not flourish;
  • extending the clinical service to the surrounding population, both to increase the patient base for research and also to ensure that the investment of resources benefits as many people as possible.

In ten years, with the Department of Oncology as the nucleus, we can claim to have transformed what was in most respects a district hospital radiotherapy centre into a nationally significant clinical cancer research centre. National and international peer review supports our claim:

  • In 2002, Cambridge was selected as one of the first 10 UK ‘Experimental Cancer Research Centres’, and this was confirmed at review in 2006.
  • In 2006, Cambridge was selected against strong competition as one of five Biomedical Research Centres in England and Wales, funded by the NHS; cancer was the leading theme in this bid.
  • In 2009, Cambridge was selected as one of five Academic Health Sciences Centres in England and Wales; cancer was one of the three major themes in the Cambridge bid.
  • In 2009, Cambridge was awarded CRUK Cancer Centre status.

While there is much more to be done, the Department provides the clinical base from which to create internationally leading programmes of cancer research to benefit patients.