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ICR and The Royal Marsden form part of new radiotherapy research network after receiving major new funding

MRI scanner

Image: MRI scanner

A new radiotherapy network will unite seven centres across the UK to pioneer the use of the latest technologies, creating a global hub for radiotherapy research.

The network, called RadNet, will aim to improve cancer survival by optimising and personalising radiotherapy. RadNet will accelerate the development of advanced radiotherapy techniques, challenging the boundaries of this mainstay treatment through world-first exploratory projects.

The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust will form part of the network, which will carry out innovative radiotherapy research – bridging the full spectrum from discovery science to translation clinical studies, with the goal of improving outcomes for a wide range of cancer patients.

Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and The Royal Marsden will focus on research to understand how cancer cells respond to radiotherapy at the molecular level and how the immune system affects cancer’s response to radiotherapy. Through a series of clinical trial protocols, they will also develop and test new combinations of drugs, including immunotherapies, with radiotherapy.

Our Division of Radiotherapy and Imaging is investigating new imaging methods to diagnose cancer, and ways in which advances in technology and molecular biology can improve radiation treatment. 

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Pioneers in developing radiotherapy as a cancer treatment

RadNet is underpinned by a £56 million programme from Cancer Research UK that was announced today (Monday).

The ICR has been a pioneer alongside The Royal Marsden in developing radiotherapy as a treatment for cancer since the beginning of the twentieth century. Today, over 130,000 patients are treated with radiotherapy on the NHS every year.

Research at the ICR led to the development of intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), allowing for much more precise delivery of the radiotherapy beam, improving its benefit and reducing side-effects.

Last year the first patient in the UK was treated on the revolutionary new MR Linac at the ICR and The Royal Marsden. The MR Linac tracks tumours in real-time for more accurate radiotherapy treatments. The ICR and The Royal Marsden, together a world-leader in clinical research, have been actively developing the technology for several years.

Great boost to research into the effects of radiotherapy

The other centres in the new research network include the Universities of Cambridge, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester and Oxford, and the Cancer Research UK City of London Centre (a partnership between Queen Mary University of London, University College London, Kings College London and the Francis Crick Institute).

Professor Kevin Harrington, Joint Head of the Division of Radiotherapy and Imaging at the ICR and Consultant Clinical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden, said:

“The ICR, working with The Royal Marsden, has made great contributions to the development of radiotherapy, for more than a century. As a member of the new UK-wide network of radiotherapy research, RadNet, we will continue to build on our ground-breaking work in this area.

“The new network will give a great boost to our research into the effects of radiotherapy. Specifically, we will focus on how the response to radiation in cancer cells and the tissue surrounding tumours can empower the patient’s own immune system to attack their disease – improving the benefits and reducing the side effects of radiotherapy for the many people who receive it as part of their cancer treatment.”

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said:

“Radiotherapy is a cornerstone of cancer medicine, with around 4 in 10 patients receiving it as part of their treatment. The launch of our network marks a new era of radiotherapy research in the UK. Scientists will combine advances in our understanding of cancer biology with cutting-edge technology to make this treatment more precise and effective than ever before”.


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