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expert reaction to letter from the Chair of the National Cancer Research Institute with news that it is closing down

It has been announced that the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) is closing down.


Professor Nick James, Professor of Prostate and Bladder Cancer Research at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said:

“This news is astonishing. Given their role in coordinating research groups, supporting the development of clinical cancer research, and enhancing the involvement of patients in research, letting the NCRI close feels massively self-destructive to UK cancer research. I hope this decision does not precede any further deterioration of UK clinical cancer research – it could be devastating for people with cancer in this country.”


Professor Robert Huddart, Professor of Urological Cancer at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and Chair of the NCRI radiotherapy working group (formerly known as CTRad), said:

“It was with great sadness to hear the devastating news that after 22 years of success in supporting UK cancer research that the NCRI is being dissolved.

“Over this period the UK has developed the reputation for the delivery of high quality, innovative academic trials that has changed practice and improved the outlook and lives of millions of people around the world. There are numerous examples, but in the area of radiotherapy recent examples include trials that have introduced advanced technology reducing side effects and improving outcomes, changed prostate and breast treatments from five weeks or more to a few days, the development of a portfolio of world leading proton trials, the introduction of stereotactic radiotherapy, curing previously incurable patients, and development of precision treatments combining radiotherapy.

“When you travel to international meetings you appreciate how much UK cancer researchers punch above their weight in delivering important clinical innovations. Our research delivery infrastructure is the envy of many countries large and small.

“This is no small part down to the NCRI, through its partnership of the public and charity funders, it has supported research innovation, innovation in research governance and infrastructure funding. Equally important is how it has brought researchers together and especially its championing of a real patient and public voice in shaping research.

“I would call on our charity and public supporters to work together to ensure the many positive areas of the NCRI’s work is not lost to the detriment of UK cancer research and most importantly the many thousands of UK cancer patients and their families.”


Prof Rhian Gabe, Professor of Biostatistics and Clinical Trials, QMUL, said:

“The NCRI was a partnership of funders working together to coordinate and accelerate cancer research in the UK and central to the cancer research infrastructure. It provided researchers, patients and carers with a forum to come together, exchange ideas and jointly develop trials and other studies aimed at saving and improving lives. It is a great shame the NCRI is disbanding. I do hope we can find other effective ways as a community to maintain links and drive the best cancer research forward, especially for those new to the field and wishing to contribute.” 


Prof Mark Lawler, Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor of Digital Health, and Chair in Translational Cancer Genomics, Queen’s University Belfast, said:

“The sudden closure of the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) is a hammer blow for cancer research across the UK and threatens to undermine our position as a powerhouse for cancer research in Europe. The NCRI was a driver for collaborative cancer research across the UK and its translation into new treatments for cancer patients. Cancer research is not a luxury, it is a necessity to drive 21st century cancer care. Cancer patients will suffer because of this disastrous development – their access to the latest innovations in cancer care and control will be significantly compromised. A bad day for cancer patients in the UK. This development,  combined with the senseless decision to abandon a cancer strategy for England will cost lives.”


Professor Emma Hall, Professor of Oncology Trials and Co-Director of the Clinical Trials and Statistics Unit at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said:

“It’s a sad day for cancer research in this country. The NCRI’s activities have been diverse and one of its great strengths has been in bringing multidisciplinary groups from across cancer research, including patients, together to help design clinical trials. In my particular area of research, the NCRI’s CTRad group has been instrumental in developing, promoting and supporting UK academic radiotherapy research culture, as well as trials themselves.

“This decision is understandable, considering the tough funding environment and the cuts that the NCRI has faced – but it will be important for the UK cancer research community to find ways of replicating what the NCRI was able to achieve, so we can try to minimise the impact this could have on people with cancer.”


Professor Judith Bliss, Professor of Clinical Trials and Director of the Clinical Trials and Statistics Unit at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said:

“The formation of the NCRI Clinical Studies Groups catalysed coordination of clinical cancer research in the UK – bringing together trialists, clinicians and patient advocates from research groups across the UK to develop trials that would inform both patient benefit and underlying scientific mechanisms. Researchers and patients owe a lot to that coordination, which facilitated communication and collaboration, long before the advent of social media.”


Sarah McDonald, Deputy Director of Research at Blood Cancer UK, said:

“It’s sad that this long standing, multi-partner collaboration, between clinicians, those with lived experience and charities will be winding down. The partnership has had success, helping identify unmet needs for those with cancer, helping develop 100’s of trials, with thousands of people getting access to new, potentially life-saving treatments.  

“Clinical trials are the only way those living with blood cancer can access new treatment. While this announcement doesn’t mean that an ongoing trial and those accessing existing drugs will be affected, work will be needed to make sure this gap is plugged.  

“The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI), has played an important role in the cancer research landscape, informing Blood Cancer UK research strategy development, providing information on unique funding trends by area and disease type. At Blood Cancer UK, we know collaboration is vital to improve treatments for people with blood cancer, and we’re deeply committed to continue collaborating with researchers, patients, charities and government to ensure the hard work of the NCRI isn’t lost.” 


Prof Lawrence Young, Professor of Molecular Oncology, University of Warwick, said:

“This is shocking news that will significantly impact cancer research and the development of new treatments in the UK.

The NCRI brought together cancer research funders, researchers and patients to improve the coordination of cancer research across the UK and to identify and address critical gaps in research. It partnered with other organisations to coordinate and accelerate cancer research and improve patient outcomes. The NCRI created 20 networks focussed on different cancers including brain cancer and children’s cancer that provided a forum for collaboration and the prioritisation of research and clinical trials. This is yet another blow to the UK research community and to the position of the UK as a world leader in cancer research.”



Declared interests

Sarah McDonald: Blood Cancer UK are members of NCRI

Prof Lawrence Young: “I have no conflicts of interest.”

For all other experts, no reply to our request for DOIs was received.

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