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The Cancer Research UK Convergence Science Centre at The Institute of Cancer Research and Imperial College London

The Cancer Research UK Convergence Science Centre at The Institute of Cancer Research and Imperial College London is a strategic partnership which aims to open up new frontiers in cancer research.

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The Convergence Science Centre will bring together engineering, physical sciences, data sciences, life sciences and medicine to create and develop inspiring new treatments and technologies for cancer patients.

It will develop innovative ways to meet the challenges of cancer research by tackling the prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. 

The Cancer Research UK Convergence Science Centre at the ICR and Imperial brings together two of the UK’s leading academic research organisations. It will create new opportunities for multidisciplinary collaboration between researchers at the two institutions and support the clinical translation of novel cancer technologies and therapeutics. 

The Convergence Science Centre will concentrate on the following research themes:

Early detection

Early detection of primary and relapsed disease is critical to improving outcomes for cancer patients. Technologies and methodologies to detect, identify and visualise cancer cells at the earliest stage of disease are needed to stratify patients for appropriate treatment. 

Therapy monitoring

Cancer’s evolution and development of resistance – including to chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy and radiotherapy – are the biggest challenges we face in cancer research and treatment. The development of technologies to monitor response to treatment in real time, rather than relying on measurements at one particular time point, will help in understanding when a patient is responding or has stopped responding. By actively measuring treatment response, clinicians will be able to change to a different treatment as soon as they know the current one has stopped working. 

Convergence therapeutics

We need innovative new approaches to complement and enhance existing drug discovery programmes. Engineering and physical sciences can transform the discovery and development of more effective cancer therapies – for example through automation in screening, new chemical approaches to drug discovery, novel targeted therapies and drug delivery devices, improvements in preclinical model systems, and development of treatment guidance platforms for surgery and radiotherapy.

Data science

Machine learning, artificial intelligence and mathematical modelling will deliver a data-driven healthcare system. Computational and data sciences will be used to develop complex data integration approaches to transform image analysis for early detection and disease progression, modelling disease progression and evolution, drug design, and the next generation of tools for clinical trial design and clinical decision-making. 

The Centre is supported through a £13 million award over five years from Cancer Research UK, which is providing the funding to create step changes in cancer research to address unmet medical needs in all cancers, particularly those that are hard to treat.

The Scientific Director of the Convergence Science Centre is Professor Axel Behrens. He said:

“I am extremely excited about joining the Cancer Research UK Convergence Science Centre. Multidisciplinary working is critical to finding innovative solutions to address the challenges we face in cancer research, diagnosis and treatment. Converging Imperial’s outstanding technological capabilities in the physical sciences and engineering with the world-leading array of cancer biologists, translational researchers and clinicians at the ICR will not only accelerate progress but also lead us to new paradigms in patient care. I look forward to leading this groundbreaking partnership and driving collaboration between two such prestigious organisations.”

Professor Workman, Founding Director of the Centre and Chief Executive of the ICR, said:

“Having worked in multidisciplinary cancer research throughout my career – at the interface of biology, chemistry and medicine to create new chemical probes and innovative targeted therapies – I am enormously excited about the potential of bringing together our two outstanding institutions. 

“The new centre will increase our joint capability and capacity to discover and develop exciting convergence science solutions that will expand our understanding of cancer and greatly accelerate our ability to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer even more effectively.”