Department of Health and Social Care
High-risk but high-reward research tackling hardest-to-treat cancers receives £2 million funding boost
- Also published by:
- Department for Science, Innovation & Technology
Innovative researchers working to tackle some of the hardest-to-treat cancers, including through the use of AI, have received a £2 million funding boost.
- Four projects exploring pioneering techniques – including artificial intelligence – to tackle cancers with poor survival rates
- each team granted £500,000 to drive forward ambitious plans that could save more lives
- announcement comes as Science and Technology addresses top AI and tech festival
Innovative researchers working to tackle some of the hardest-to-treat cancers, including through the use of artificial intelligence (AI), have received a £2 million funding boost, Science and Technology Secretary, Michelle Donelan, has announced today (Tuesday 12 September).
Four teams from across the UK will receive £500,000 each to drive forward high-risk but high-reward projects that could prove key to curing cancers with poor survival rates, including that of the brain, lungs and oesophagus.
Among the teams to receive government-backed Medical Research Council (MRC) funding is King’s College London, to determine how artificial intelligence could read lung scans and more accurately predict whether a cancer is resistant to treatment. The data will then be used to create targeted drugs that selectively kill treatment-resistant cancer cells.
The investment follows last month’s announcement of £13 million towards research for AI innovation in healthcare and comes ahead of the Science and Technology Secretary’s address to the CogX conference in London today, where she will outline the wider potential for AI to transform the UK’s economy, society and public services.
Speaking ahead of this afternoon’s speech, Science and Technology Secretary, Michelle Donelan, said:
While pioneering treatments have progressed enormously over the years thanks to world class researchers, cancer continues to impact on so many lives – whether through diagnoses or experiencing the heart-wrenching loss of a loved one.
By investing in high-risk but high-reward techniques – including artificial intelligence – we are backing our ambitious, world class researchers to build on generations of discoveries and give more people a fighting chance to live long and healthy lives.
The four projects were selected following a two-day ‘sandpit’ event – an interactive workshop – to promote new conversations and create teams of researchers across scientific disciplines from clinical, biomedical, engineering, physical and data sciences. The teams co-developed ideas and solutions to advance cancer research including for prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
Among the other projects receiving today’s funding is work by Imperial College London to develop techniques for the precision removal of brain cancer cells using a laser. The technique could reduce the impact of treatment on normal cells as well as provide real-time data on the nature of the cancer, which can then be used to inform post-operative treatment.
Elsewhere, Cardiff University and Brain Tumour Research are exploring the potential for a cryogel placed at the site of a brain tumour to deliver drugs directly to the site, in turn overcoming the blood-brain barrier and reducing the effects of drugs on non-targeted areas.
Meanwhile the University of Manchester and The Christie NHS Foundation Trust will explore ways to optimise engineered nanoparticle therapeutics for oesophageal cancer. Researchers hope to target cells that hinder effectiveness of medicines that boost the immune system against cancer.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Steve Barclay, said:
Research and technology are crucial in the fight against cancer, with AI already transforming the way we deliver healthcare in some settings by diagnosing cancer earlier, meaning people can be treated more quickly.
Cancer survival rates are improving and more people are being seen and treated than ever before.
We are looking at how new technology can help provide the best possible treatments for patients and this £2 million investment will be vital in supporting researchers to understand and treat those cancers with lower survival rates.
Doctor Megan Dowie, MRC Head of Molecular and Cellular Medicine:
We look forward to supporting the teams towards achieving real-world impacts, both in a clinical setting and the real hope they may ultimately be able to offer to those suffering from some of the most challenging cancer diagnoses.
We were inspired by the success of the sandpit event. The many new interdisciplinary connections formed over the two-days will have a lasting legacy of future collaboration of life and physical sciences researchers. This will help achieve the step change we need to address hard-to-treat cancers with potential for translation to other types of cancer too.
In August, the Technology Secretary visited University College London (UCL) where she announced £13 million for research that will deliver cutting-edge AI innovation in healthcare, with 22 winning university and NHS trust projects stretching from Edinburgh to Surrey to receive a share.
The boost will support everything from the development of a semi-autonomous surgical robotics platform for the removal of tumours, to the ability to predict the likelihood of a person’s future health problems based on their existing conditions - showcasing the real-world impact artificial intelligence is having.
Notes to editors
The four projects are led by Tim Witney at Kings College London; Lauren Ford at Imperial College London; Ben Newland at Cardiff University and Sara Valpione at the University of Manchester and The Christie NHS Foundation Trust.
Latest News from
Department of Health and Social Care
Using NHS data to improve healthcare29/09/2023 14:20:00
Professor Sir Chris Whitty writes for The Times on how using data effectively and safely can improve patient care and bolster research
Action taken to help promote no and low-alcohol drinks28/09/2023 10:10:00
More people could be encouraged to purchase alcohol-free drinks under government proposals to make alternatives to alcoholic drinks more widely available.
Government and NHS to help tackle killer heart condition25/09/2023 10:25:00
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay has announced measures to tackle aortic dissection, a heart condition that kills 2,000 people every year.
UK announces “transformational” support to boost global health at UNGA21/09/2023 13:12:00
New UK funding will help achieve UN Sustainable Development Goals by boosting health security and improving health and wellbeing around the world.
95% of ex-smokers see positive changes soon after quitting20/09/2023 11:20:00
Stoptober is back and calling on smokers to join the thousands of others committing to quit from 1 October.
Government considers minimum service levels in hospitals during strikes20/09/2023 10:10:10
The government is considering introducing regulations that would require some doctors and nurses to work during strikes, to protect patient safety.
UK patients set to have faster access to innovative medical technologies via new pathway19/09/2023 13:10:00
The Innovative Devices Access Pathway (IDAP) pilot was launched today by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Health Technology Wales (HTW), the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the National Health Service England (NHSE), the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the Office for Life Sciences (OLS), and the Scottish Health Technologies Group (SHTG).
Government to introduce legal costs cap to support victims18/09/2023 13:10:00
Legal costs will be capped in lower damages clinical negligence claims to support victims, speed up justice and protect taxpayers and NHS England cash.