Early phase clinical trials underpin the introduction of innovative new treatments to the clinic, allowing us to develop the arsenal of therapies necessary to achieve personalised medicine for all cancer patients.
Our Experimental Cancer Medicine Unit, located within The Christie’s Clinical Trials Unit, conducts early phase clinical trials in a dedicated 2,000m2 state-of-the-art development with extensive inpatient and outpatient facilities and a large research sample collection laboratory. It is ideally located next to the cancer discovery and translation laboratories within the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, the Wolfson Molecular Imaging Centre and the new Manchester Cancer Research Centre building. Moreover, The Christie is the largest single-site cancer hospital in Europe, treating 14,000 new patients every year, and we currently have around 400 trials taking place at any one time.
The Unit is becoming a major international centre for experimental therapeutics providing access to novel therapies for a significant proportion of patients and acting as a ‘go-to’ centre for scientifically driven and biomarker informed trials. Our overall ambition is to reach the scale and scope of early phase clinical trials achieved by the leading cancer centres in Europe and the USA.
In particular, we aim to be a leader in the use of liquid biopsy for personalised medicine and real-time clinical trial data acquisition to enable adaptive decision-making in phase I, and work in partnership with other centres to conduct basket/bucket trials. Recent steps include the initiation of the TARGET study, optimising the pathway to molecularly characterise all patients entering early phase trials in order to allow routine patient stratification. We are basing our approach not on tissue characterisation, but blood-borne or ‘virtual’ biopsy using both circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) and circulating tumour cells (CTCs).
Key to our vision of personalised medicine is being able to offer novel experimental therapies to cancer patients at all stages of treatment, if that is the most appropriate and likely most effective option. This shifts early phase clinical trials from being an end-of-life experience to one that is considered for patients from the day of diagnosis.
We are delivering a major goal of Cancer Research UK’s strategy – the development of an early phase trials centre that has the size and capacity, innovative culture and expertise to be at the forefront nationally and to compete internationally – driving advances in stratified, biomarker-led trials.