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Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit

The Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit is the largest academic cancer drug discovery and development group worldwide. Its 12 research teams cover every aspect of new drug discovery and development, from cell and molecular biology through to chemical synthesis of new agents and their evaluation in clinical trials.


The unit is largely funded by Cancer Research UK and is based within the Division of Cancer Therapeutics at The Institute of Cancer Research. Its research strategy is to exploit the vulnerabilities of cancer cells by discovering novel and innovative small-molecule drugs, and accompanying biomarkers, for the personalised treatment of cancer.

The Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit at the ICR has an unrivalled track record in discovering new cancer drugs. It discovered carboplatin – still the global standard of care for patients with a wide range of solid tumours – and more recently abiraterone, approved by NICE in 2012 for use in advanced prostate cancer. Since 2005, the unit has driven the discovery of 20 preclinical drug candidates, and taken 10 new drugs into clinical trials. One of those was abiraterone, approved by NICE in 2012 to treat advanced prostate cancer.

The research output of the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit, and the Drug Development Unit at the ICR and The Royal Marsden, received the American Association for Cancer Research’s 6th Team Science Award in 2012. The AACR citation for this prestigious award said: “This team’s research is an outstanding example of how innovative cancer research conducted by a highly functioning translational team can start with biologic hypotheses and ultimately lead to much-needed cancer therapeutics.”

In December 2015, the ICR was presented with the British Pharmacological Society’s UK Pharmacology on the Map award for institutions that have made a significant contribution to improving human health through drug discovery and pharmacology research.

The unit's Director is Professor Rajesh Chopra. He took over from Professor Paul Workman, who was Director from 1997-2015 and is now the ICR's Chief Executive.

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