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World Cancer Day – A Manchester Event and Back to the Future

February 4th 2016 – An evening reception with lectures at the Manchester Cancer Research Centre (MCRC) was a fitting place for me to be on World Cancer Day. Back to my research roots, memories of exhilarating PhD days and in my mind there was no better place to be at that time. I have a fond notion that the new building is perhaps constructed on the location of the old Christie Hospital Staff Club where I met my husband. Two friends decided we would make a great couple – and somehow it all worked out. Well it is almost Valentine’s Day so I’m allowed a little romantic reverie.

A number of years later and many stories later (but for another time perhaps), and here I am scouring the room for faces from the past, colleagues and current friends. There’s a lot happening in this part of the world with Manchester University, the Christie NHS Foundation Trust and Cancer Research UK independent cancer research charity.

Future cancer research is encompassed in this very new futuristic building and facilities – a superb example in a new era of collaborations in research. This evening befittingly, we are treated to a glimpse of the latest developments and future direction of research in this centre of excellence. The title is ‘Cancer Treatments of Tomorrow: Tailor Made in Manchester’

A short ‘warm-up’ introduction by Dr Nigel Brooks who then stands back for Professor Caroline Dive to present the very latest science and aspirations from her research team. Biomarkers, isolation of single cancerous cells circulating in the bloodstream. Her enthusiasm is contagious (well I caught it as I am sure many others did too).

Professor Andrew Hughes then takes to the helm and just in case anyone wasn’t quite so switched on by the science, the whole audience is energised by participating in a short exercise involving lots of standing up and sitting down – the theme being the implications of research aspirations for outcomes in patients – a feel for where we have been and where we could be heading. His team are conducting clinical trials on new drugs and he presents an overview of their current research.

An important take home message is that different teams are working together to maximise the impact of precision medicine on patients and how these teams plan to expand their work in future.

Discussions are opened to the floor and lively banter ensues – ‘biomarkers’, ‘precision medicine’, ‘early detection’, lots of science and of course some straight-talking non-science practical and ‘political’ points made as well. Well, what would you expect – this is Manchester!

Light refreshments and time for a catch up with former and current colleagues from academia and industry. Then it’s time to leave and somehow on the dark evening drive home from Manchester the mood is lifted by the sense of moving forward, the traffic lights, the flashbacks to an inspirational scientific event and glimmers of hope for the future.

Thank you to the organisers for the opportunity to attend this event – as I said there’s a lot happening in Manchester UK these days!

by Julie Charlesworth