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New Alliance to bring lung cancer trials to population of six million

Leading research institutions and hospitals across London today (Thursday, 25 April) unite to transform the care of lung cancer with plans to invite patients over a population of six million into a pioneering new programme of clinical trials.

The initiative is being backed by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and by England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally C Davies.

The launch of the London Lung Cancer Alliance aims to deliver dramatic benefits for patients in London, nationally and worldwide – through collaboration, coordination and an ambition to give every patient access to a trial suitable for them.

Member organisations plan a programme of research that will ultimately make trials of cutting-edge personalised therapies available to up to 3,000 patients a year newly diagnosed with lung cancer across the capital.

Lung cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK after breast cancer, with 42,000 new cases in 2010. Survival rates in the UK are distressingly low and worse than across much of Europe – less than 10% of patients are still alive five years after diagnosis.

The Alliance forms a roll call of leading London research institutions and hospitals: Imperial College London, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, King’s College London (as part of King’s Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre), Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, The Institute of Cancer Research, London, The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust and Barts Cancer Institute at Queen Mary, University of London.

Patients with lung cancer across London will be included in the unique research programme, which will cover the entire lung cancer pathway from the identification and screening of those at risk through to end-stage disease. The London Lung Cancer Alliance will also link up with five other cities across the UK.

Researchers will genetically profile tumours and test a panel of targeted therapies – many previously untried in lung cancer - in those with particular molecular defects. They will also develop ‘liquid biopsy’ blood tests for patients who are too ill to biopsy, or to monitor whether drugs are working and assess for signs of resistance.

Under the plans, all patients within a six-million catchment area in London, along with those in Newcastle, Southampton, Liverpool, Cardiff and Edinburgh, will eventually be offered gene testing of their cancers at diagnosis. As many patients as possible will then be offered one of a panel of targeted therapies matched to their cancer’s particular molecular defects.

Professor Alan Ashworth, Chair of the London Lung Cancer Alliance and Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, said: “For far too long the prospects for patients with lung cancer have been bleak. But now we have an opportunity to change that as new genetic techniques for studying tumours open up the prospect of trialling novel targeted therapies for lung cancer.

“The London Lung Cancer Alliance has brought together leading organisations across London with the aim of applying state-of-the-art technology to radically shake up the way we treat lung cancer. We believe that this new alliance will genuinely improve the prospects for lung cancer patients.”

Dr James Spicer, Reader in Experimental Oncology at King's College London, said: “The explosion in our understanding of lung cancer biology is at last leading to a growing list of experimental treatment options for lung cancer.

“Now we need a new level of organisation and collaboration to introduce these drugs to the clinic as soon as possible, and provide these previously disadvantaged patients with new hope. King’s Health Partners is delighted to play a part in making this happen.”

Professor Michael Seckl, Head of Molecular Oncology at Imperial College London and an oncology consultant at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “This alliance gives us an outstanding opportunity for our leading scientists to work together across the capital to change the face of lung cancer in the UK, and to translate these discoveries into life saving care for our patients.”

Boris Johnson, The Mayor of London, said: “London is a global leader in medical research and the life sciences, with world-class hospitals and other institutions investigating treatments for lung cancer. By working together they are multiplying the knowledge and expertise required to develop trials of therapies targeting a disease that affects far too many people living in the capital.”

Professor Dame Sally C Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England, said: “The launch of this Alliance heralds a brighter future for lung cancer patients across London and more widely and is just the kind of collaborative initiative that we're keen to see National Institute for Health Research infrastructure support. It is only by academia, the NHS and industry working together that we can make real progress against diseases such as lung cancer, where low expectations and poor survival rates have become entrenched.”

Dr Tyson Sharp, Non-Clinical Senior Lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London, said: “Here at Barts Cancer Institute we combine both basic molecular biology and clinical research to advance our understanding and treatment of many different types of cancer.

“My group’s specific interest is in the early events that initiate lung cancer and the use of novel genetic targets to develop tumour-specific and patient-specific therapies. Our molecular and cell biology research and model system of disease development fit perfectly with the overarching strategy of the Alliance and in so doing will also significantly benefit patient health through access to the six million patients available in this exciting new initiative.”

Dr Eric Lim, Consultant Thoracic Surgeon at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, said: “As one of the largest lung cancer partnerships in the country we are delighted to be part of this initiative. We already work closely with the Royal Marsden and Mount Vernon hospitals and this new powerful alliance has the real potential to break new ground in lung cancer research and treatment.”  

Dr Adrian Draper, Lead Lung Cancer Clinician at St George’s Healthcare Trust, said: “At St George’s, we’re very excited to be part of this wonderful collaboration, with the aim of providing benefit for lung cancer patients across such a large area of London.”

All the organisations in the London Lung Cancer Alliance have pledged to allocate funding for the infrastructure required by the initiative, with further funding to be sought from a series of grant-giving bodies, including the Government.

The Alliance plans to work with pharmaceutical companies to make existing targeted cancer therapies available to be tested in lung cancer for the first time.

Some of these drugs are targeted at molecular defects that may only be present in a small proportion of lung cancers, which is why it is so important to include such large numbers of patients in the trial programme.

And by providing access to a wide range of treatments, it should be possible to match many patients in the trial programme to a potentially effective drug.

The Alliance also plans to focus on screening, early detection and prevention of lung cancer across high-risk groups, including patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

 - ENDS - 

For more information contact Claire Bithell in press office at The Institute of Cancer Research on 020 7153 5312 / c[email protected] or for out of hours please contact 07969 082520.

Notes to editors

The Institute of Cancer Research, London, is one of the world’s most influential cancer research institutes.

Scientists and clinicians at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) are working every day to make a real impact on cancer patients’ lives. Through its unique partnership with The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and ‘bench-to-bedside’ approach, the ICR is able to create and deliver results in a way that other institutions cannot. Together the two organisations are rated in the top four cancer centres globally.

The ICR has an outstanding record of achievement dating back more than 100 years. It provided the first convincing evidence that DNA damage is the basic cause of cancer, laying the foundation for the now universally accepted idea that cancer is a genetic disease. Today it leads the world at isolating cancer-related genes and discovering new targeted drugs for personalised cancer treatment.

As a college of the University of London, the ICR provides postgraduate higher education of international distinction. It has charitable status and relies on support from partner organisations, charities and the general public.

The ICR’s mission is to make the discoveries that defeat cancer. For more information visit

The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust 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

St George's Healthcare NHS Trust is one of the largest healthcare providers in the UK. Its main site, St George’s Hospital in Tooting – one of the country’s principal teaching hospitals – is shared with St George's, University of London, which trains medical students and carries out advanced medical research. As well as acute hospital services, the trust provides a wide variety of specialist and community hospital based care and a full range of community services to children, adults, older people and people with learning disabilities. The trust is an accredited centre of excellence for trauma, neurology, cardiology and cancer services, and the national centre for family HIV care and bone marrow transplantation for non-cancer diseases.

Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust is a national and international specialist heart and lung centre based in Chelsea, London and Harefield, Middlesex. The Trust helps patients from all age groups who have heart and lung problems and is the country's largest centre for the treatment of adult congenital heart disease.

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust
 comprises Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea, St Mary’s and Western Eye hospitals. With more than one million patient contacts each year, it is one of the largest acute Trusts in the country and, in partnership with Imperial College London, is the UK’s first Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC). It has an annual turnover of around £950 million.

Imperial College Healthcare is one of eleven NIHR Biomedical Research Centres. This designation is given to the most outstanding NHS and university research partnerships in the country; leaders in scientific translation and early adopters of new insights in technologies, techniques and treatments for improving health. Imperial College Healthcare has some of the lowest mortality rates in the country according to the Dr Foster Guide – an annual, independent report published 2012.

Consistently rated amongst the world's best universities, Imperial College London is a science-based institution with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research that attracts 14,000 students and 6,000 staff of the highest international quality. Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and business, delivering practical solutions that improve quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.

Since its foundation in 1907, Imperial's contributions to society have included the discovery of penicillin, the development of holography and the foundations of fibre optics. This commitment to the application of research for the benefit of all continues today, with current focuses including interdisciplinary collaborations to improve global health, tackle climate change, develop sustainable sources of energy and address security challenges.

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