Scientists from The Institute of Cancer Research, London, attended a ceremony at Buckingham Palace on Thursday 22 February where they were officially awarded a highly prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize for the institution’s world-leading research in cancer drug discovery.
The Queen’s Anniversary Prize acknowledges The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) for its outstanding contribution to the discovery of new cancer drugs – including pioneering the transition from one-size-fits-all chemotherapy to targeted drug treatment.
Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall presented the Prize Medal and a certificate to a team representing the ICR at the ceremony. The ICR was announced as one of the winners of a Queen’s Anniversary Prize in November 2017.
The ICR has been rated as the world’s leading academic organisation in the field of cancer drug discovery, and the most successful higher education institution in the UK at earning invention income from its science. Royalties from ICR discoveries are ploughed back into the organisation’s research for the benefit of cancer patients.
Since 2005 the ICR has discovered 20 new targeted cancer drugs and taken nine into clinical trials.
Abiraterone, a highly innovative drug for advanced prostate cancer discovered at the ICR, was approved for use on the NHS in 2012 and has extended the lives of hundreds of thousands of men around the world.
The ICR’s science also underpinned the development of olaparib for women with ovarian cancer with BRCA mutations – firstly through the discovery of the BRCA2 gene, and subsequently by showing that BRCA-mutant tumours were particularly susceptible to the new treatment. Olaparib was approved for advanced ovarian cancer in Europe and the US in 2014, and earlier this year was approved in the US for women with advanced breast cancer.
As well as being the leading higher education institution in the UK for research quality and impact the ICR is also a charity, and relies on support from partner organisations, donors and the general public.
The ICR’s Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit is central to its drug discovery work, while its partnership with The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust enables rapid transfer of research discoveries to patients.
Success in drug discovery at the ICR has been underpinned by a ‘team science’ approach which brings together expertise from many academic research areas in large focused multidisciplinary teams.
The ICR, in partnership with the London Borough of Sutton, also has ambitions to create the world’s leading hub for cancer research, treatment, education and enterprise. The London Cancer Hub is intended to be a global centre for cancer innovation, bringing together scientists, doctors, life-science companies and a new science-specialist school. The project has the support of The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust and the Greater London Authority.
Earlier this month the London Borough of Sutton and the ICR announced that the Council had purchased a further 2.23 hectares of NHS land on The London Cancer Hub’s site in Sutton at a cost of £14.1 million.
The deal doubles the land purchased on the site for cancer research, treatment, education and enterprise.
Professor Paul Workman, Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said:
“We’re honoured to be invited to Buckingham Palace to receive this prestigious award on behalf of the whole of the ICR. The Queen’s Anniversary Prize recognises the expertise and tremendous hard work of so many people across the ICR who are helping us to make vital discoveries to defeat cancer.
“Cancer touches so many people’s lives. I lost my father to cancer before I finished my PhD and my mother also later on. That is a big inspiration for me, and so many others at the ICR have similar experiences that drive them to do great science that delivers benefits for people with cancer and their families.
“We are particularly proud to be the most successful academic centre in the world at discovering new cancer drugs. But we know that success is only possible thanks to the generous support of our funders, donors, collaborators and partners. By continuing to work together we know we can continue to make great strides towards defeating cancer.”
Professor Rajesh Chopra, Director of the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said:
“It’s a wonderful honour to be recognised for our work to pioneer the discovery of precision medicines for cancer. We have been successful at drug discovery as an organisation because we have brought together so many talented scientists from different fields and got them working together as multidisciplinary teams, all focused on a common goal. It’s a great example of the value of teamwork and partnership.”
Dr Olivia Rossanese, Head of Biology in the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said:
“We don’t do cancer research for the prizes but it is humbling for our work to be recognised with such a high honour. We’re motivated to make discoveries that improve and save lives and what’s special about this prize is that it celebrates the success we have made right across the ICR in having real benefits for people with cancer.”
The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education are a set of awards within the UK honours system. The awards are considered to be the UK’s highest honour within the honours system given to an organisation, rather an individual.
The awards are given out every two years in the name, and with the endorsement, of The Queen in recognition of work by universities and colleges judged to be outstanding with respect to excellence, innovation and tangible beneficial effects in the wider world.