Lead: Mr Grant Stewart, University Lecturer in Urological Surgery
Surgery was historically the only cure for cancer, it is only relatively recently that non-surgical treatments have been used in conjunction with surgery or as an alternative to surgery to cure cancer. Modern surgical oncologists are cancer surgeons with a deep understanding of the biology of the cancer(s) they treat both with surgery and in conjunction with a multidisciplinary team including colleagues from medical oncology, clinical oncology, pathology and radiology. Surgical oncology-based research is critical for the advancement of our fundamental understanding of cancers (via basic research, optimal biosampling and associated translational research), development of novel surgical approaches and methodologies and perioperative systemic therapy clinical trials.
Cancer research is a major strength of The University of Cambridge. The Cambridge Biomedical Campus is Europe’s largest centre of health science and medical research, and provides unique access to both the clinic and industry. The Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre, led by Professor Richard Gilbertson, is a virtual collective of more than 500 laboratory researchers and physicians united through a 12-programme structure that brings together investigators working on: aerodigestive, breast, haematological, brain, ovarian, paediatric, pancreatic and urological cancers. An additional four programmes focus on: cancer imaging, to promote our world-leading expertise in laboratory and clinical imaging research; cell and molecular biology, to engage our colleagues working in all aspects of biology relevant to cancer; early detection to support this special area of research emphasis in our CRUK Major Centre; and onco-innovation to provide a collaboration point for our colleagues in the pharmaceutical industry (e.g., AstraZeneca, Medimmune) as well as members from University departments in the physical sciences.
Surgical oncology is a key element in the success of CRUK Cambridge Centre and has strong representation across the centre programmes with Messrs Simon Buczacki, Vincent Gnanpragasam, Stephen Price acting as co-leads of their respective programmes. Early Detection is of particular relevance to surgeons who are usually the gatekeeper of the cancer diagnostic pathway, this is reflected in a range of surgery related Early Detection workstreams which are ongoing i.e. (a) CamProbe, developing a new device for local anaesthetic perineal prostate biopsies led by Mr Gnanapragasam and (b) SPEAR a collaboration between Mr Stewart and Professor Russell Cowburn FRS in Dept of Physics to develop a novel urine based method of early detection of kidney cancer. The Integrated Cancer Medicine programme is a unique feature of the CRUK CC, where innovative clinical trials are linked to translational research, advanced imaging and data integration; Mr Stewart is the Chief Investigator of the WIRE study (WIndow of opportunity in REnal cancer trials platform) one of the initial clinical trials being developed. Strength in surgical oncology research is further evidenced by four clinical academics holding prestigious clinician scientist awards for their research: Mr Tom Mitchell (CRUK/RCS Clinician Scientist, a urologist studying how kidney cancers initiate, evolve and resist treatment), Mr Simon Buczacki (CRUK Clinician Scientist, a colorectal surgeon studying how colorectal cancer stem cells and how to interact with these to make them susceptible to adjuvant systemic therapy), Mr Amit Roshan (CRUK/RCS Clinician Scientist, a plastic surgeon assessing the utility of circulating tumour DNA in early melanoma, and progressing the understanding of disease mechanisms in the initiation and progression of localised melanoma), Mr Siong Liau (MRC-Academy of Medical Sciences Clinician Scientist, a HPB surgeon studying the role of DNA repair genes in the genetic evolution of pancreatic cancer).
As well as successful individual investigator and cancer specific research programmes, Cambridge Surgical Oncology have a regular Surgical Oncology Forum to inform, discuss and plan cross disciplinary surgical oncology research projects and strategic initiatives.