Innovation and excellence in science and health

MRC Cancer Unit

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Cancer-cell-unit

MRC Cancer Cell Unit
Brief descriptionThe MRC Cancer Unit undertakes world-leading research into understanding how cancers develop, and seeks to translate this knowledge to new approaches for diagnosis and treatment that can be applied in the clinic. The focus is on discovering the early steps in epithelial carcinogenesis because the Unit believes that better understanding of these steps will lead to new methods to improve the care and survival of patients with epithelial malignancies such as pancreatic, oesophageal, lung, breast and skin cancers.
Year established2001
History/ backgroundThe MRC Cancer Cell Unit was founded in 2001 by Professor Ron Laskey. It has become a leading centre for translational cancer research, producing highly innovative research with substantial clinical impact. The Unit is a key participant in the Cambridge Cancer Centre, and has a unique place in the MRC's national portfolio through its focus on disease-oriented translational research. Research highlights originating from the Unit include the development of a diagnostic test for cervical and other cancers based on fundamental studies of DNA replication, the discovery of the essential functions of the epithelial cancer suppressor BRCA2 in maintaining chromosome stability, the use of quantitative cell fate tracking and statistical physics to uncover a new paradigm of epithelial homeostasis, and the development of a screening test for Barrett's oesophagus.
ResearchChromosomal instability in cancer pathogenesis and treatment
Gastro-oesophageal cancers
Stem cells and cancer
Modelling tumour development and therapy
Stroma function in the tumour microenvironment
Understanding the metabolic transformation of cancer cells

Main fundersMedical Research Council (MRC)
DirectorProfessor Ashok Venkitaraman
Structure6 Research groups
Chromosomal instability in cancer pathogenesis and treatment - led by Professor Ashok Venkitaraman
Barrett’s oesophagus and gastro-oesophageal cancers- led by Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald
Stem cells and cancer - led by Dr Phil Jones
Modelling tumour development and therapy- led by Dr Carla Martins
Stroma function in the tumour microenvironment- led by Dr Jacqui Shields
Understanding the metabolic transformation of cancer cells- led by Dr Christian Frezza
LocationThe MRC CCU is located in the Hutchison/MRC Research Centre, a state-of-the-art facility financed by contributions from the Medical Research Council and a benefaction to Cambridge University from Hutchison-Whampoa. The Hutchison/MRC Research Centre also houses laboratories of the University's Department of Oncology. Both the MRC Cancer Cell Unit and the Department of Oncology encompass a wide range of activities from basic science to clinical exploitation, which benefit from the critical mass and economies of scale arising from the joint infrastructure and facilities shared throughout the Research Centre building.

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