Main Menu

First patients enrolled in personalised medicine project



Monday 21 November 2011



Clinicians and scientists at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) are taking part in a ground-breaking national project which could lead to personalised cancer treatment for individual patients.


Stratified Medicine Programme - how does it work?

The Cancer Research UK Stratified Medicine Programme aims to establish a world-class NHS genetic testing service in the UK. This means that as and when new targeted treatments become available, doctors will have access to the tests they need to help them decide which drugs are best for their patients.


The Royal Marsden and the ICR form one of seven centres around the country where recruitment of patients has started to demonstrate how genetic tests could be used within the NHS to help match cancer patients to the most appropriate treatment, while building a database of information for research into new targeted therapies.


Up to 9,000 patients across the UK will participate in the first phase of the programme, which covers six different tumour types: breast, bowel, lung, prostate, ovary and melanoma skin cancer.


The Royal Marsden and the ICR have already produced the first results as part of this project from lung cancer patients’ tumour samples, while over 100 Royal Marsden patients have been recruited so far into the project.


The Stratified Medicine Programme follows on from work The Royal Marsden and the ICR have been doing for a number of years, providing patients with a routine molecular diagnosis as part of our personalised medicine programme.


Professor Stephen Johnston, Clinical Director for Research and Development at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and The Institute of Cancer Research, is Principal Investigator of the Clinical Hub while Dr David Gonzalez de Castro, Head of Molecular Diagnostics at The Royal Marsden and the ICR, is Principal Investigator of the Technical Hub.


Professor Johnston said: “For years we have pioneered the bench-to-bedside approach to cancer research and treatment. Based on the understanding that individuals with the same type of cancer may respond differently to the same treatment, molecular diagnostic tools can help identify who may benefit from different therapies. It means cancer treatment can be tailored to suit an individual patient’s needs, rather than using the traditional one-size-fits-all treatment approach.


“The new facility we are building on our Sutton site, the Centre for Molecular Pathology, which will open next year, will drive this move towards personalised medicine. It will bring scientists, pathologists, geneticists and clinicians together to continue working to revolutionise the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. This is an incredibly exciting time for cancer research, with the prospect of significant improvements in patient care - and we are delighted to be a part of it.”


As part of the Stratified Medicine Programme, patients will be asked to give consent for a small sample of their tumour to be sent to one of three leading NHS genetic testing labs – based at the ICR, Cardiff All Wales Regional Genetics Centre and the West Midlands Regional Genetics Laboratory in Birmingham – where DNA will be extracted and analysed for a range of molecular faults linked to cancer.


This information will be stored alongside other relevant clinical information to allow researchers to compare the success of different treatments in relation to specific faults within cancer cells.


Although the programme will not alter patients’ treatment at this stage, it’s hoped it could help scientists design better targeted treatments in the future.




Media Contact: ICR Science Communications Manager Jane Bunce on 0207 153 5106 or after hours 077217 47900 or The Royal Marsden PR and Communications Manager Elaine Parr on 0208 7808 2107 


Notes to editor:


*Stratified medicine involves using diagnostic tests (such as genetic testing) to identify groups of patients whose cancers have similar characteristics that may indicate what kind of treatments will work best for them – such as the use of HER2 testing before prescribing Herceptin for breast cancer. This is one step towards ‘personalised medicine’, where treatments are tailored for individual patients according to the specific characteristics of their cancer.


The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR)

  • The ICR is Europe’s leading cancer research centre
  • The ICR has been ranked the UK’s top academic research centre, based on the results of the Higher Education Funding Council’s Research Assessment Exercise
  • The ICR works closely with partner The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust to ensure patients immediately benefit from new research. Together the two organisations form the largest comprehensive cancer centre in Europe
  • The ICR has charitable status and relies on voluntary income
  • As a college of the University of London, the ICR also provides postgraduate higher education of international distinction
  • Over its 100-year history, the ICR’s achievements include identifying the potential link between smoking and lung cancer which was subsequently confirmed, discovering that DNA damage is the basic cause of cancer and isolating more cancer-related genes than any other organisation in the world
  • The ICR is home to the world’s leading academic cancer drug development team. Several important anti-cancer drugs used worldwide were synthesised at the ICR and it has discovered an average of two preclinical candidates each year over the past five years.

For more information visit

The Royal Marsden opened its doors in 1851 as the world’s first hospital dedicated to cancer diagnosis, treatment, research and education.

Today, together with its academic partner, The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), it is the largest and most comprehensive cancer centre in Europe treating over 44,000 patients every year.  It is a centre of excellence with an international reputation for groundbreaking research and pioneering the very latest in cancer treatments and technologies. The Royal Marsden also provides community services in the London boroughs of Sutton and Merton and in June 2010, along with the ICR, the Trust launched a new academic partnership with Mount Vernon Cancer Centre in Middlesex. 

Since 2004, the hospital’s charity, The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, has helped raise over £50 million to build theatres, diagnostic centres, and drug development units. Prince William became President of The Royal Marsden in 2007, following a long royal connection with the hospital.

For more information, visit

comments powered by Disqus