Edinburgh Cancer Research

£4m for Scotland Will Help Find New Cancer Treatments

The development of new cancer treatments in Scotland is to receive major funding of up to £4m providing future hope for people diagnosed with the disease: January 2023

ECMC logo

Glasgow’s Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) and the Paediatric ECMC in the city will receive up to £2,286,575 while Edinburgh’s ECMC will receive up to £1,796,899, over the next five years, to help doctors and scientists develop the cancer treatments of the future for both adults and children.

This funding has been made possible by a partnership between Cancer Research UK, the Scottish Government, with the Little Princess Trust providing funding specifically for children’s cancers.

The investment has been welcomed by retired headteacher Jim McCallum from Paisley, who was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2017.

His lymphoma didn’t respond to standard treatment, but he was able to take part in the CAR T-cell therapy clinical trial at the Glasgow ECMC in 2020 and is now cancer free and not taking any treatment for the disease.

He said: “They can’t find any trace of the cancer now. I was just so glad they had a treatment I could try and taking part in a trial also has the potential to help others, it’s all about gathering information.”

Glasgow and Edinburgh are part of a network of 17 ECMCs across the UK funded by Cancer Research UK, which delivers clinical trials of new experimental treatments in patients. Since 2007, when the network was first established, around 30,000 patients have taken part in 2,100 clinical trials.

This funding will allow new, experimental treatments, including immunotherapies and cell therapies to be developed, for a wide variety of cancers especially those that particularly affect the Scottish population.

It will also improve existing treatments, especially through targeting therapies more precisely to the patient’s tumour, supporting trials across a wide range of treatments from innovative drug therapies to the latest advances in radiotherapy treatment.

ECMCs work in conjunction with local NHS facilities to provide access to cutting-edge trials and treatments to help find new ways to detect, monitor and treat the disease to help beat cancer sooner.

On behalf of the Glasgow team, I am delighted that we have secured this funding which will allow our patients to have access to clinical trials of the very latest developments in new, experimental treatments for cancer.

This funding is essential to support our ambitions to provide access to trials of experimental therapies for patients in the West of Scotland and beyond, in collaboration with our colleagues in Edinburgh, so that we provide equal access to trials for patients wherever they live in Scotland.

Thousands of patients have kindly participated in these trials through the Glasgow and Edinburgh ECMCs and this funding, in partnership with other Cancer Centres in Scotland and throughout the UK, will benefit people with cancer in Scotland and beyond.

Professor Jeff EvansGlasgow ECMC Lead

We are delighted Edinburgh has secured this funding, along with our close colleagues in Glasgow.

Clinical trials are crucial to improving cancer therapies and our ECMCs lead trials of the newest innovative treatments. This provides access to the latest experimental therapies for our current patients to help develop new standard treatments for the patients of the future.

ECMC funding allows us to provide these promising new treatment options for people throughout Scotland and to make progress in the effective treatment of cancer for everyone.

Dr Stefan SymeonidesEdinburgh ECMC Lead

One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer within our lifetimes so finding new effective treatments is vital. *

Cancer Research UK has been integral in aiding the discovery of many new cancer treatments that are widely used in everyday clinical practice throughout the world.

We are proud to be supporting our successful ECMC network, bringing together vast medical and scientific expertise to translate the latest scientific discoveries from the lab into the clinic.

The ECMC network is delivering the cancer treatments of the future, bringing new hope to people affected by cancer. The trials taking place today will give the next generation the best possible chance of beating cancer.

The adult and paediatric ECMC networks will offer clinical trials for many different types of cancer. Researchers will be working to find new treatments and tackle the unique challenges presented by cancers in children and young people. Working with our partners, this new funding will bring hope for more effective, personalised therapies for everyone affected by cancer.

Dr Iain FoulkesExecutive Director of Research and Innovation at Cancer Research UK

Cancer remains the leading cause of death amongst children and young people, and we must change that. 

Since 2016, The Little Princess Trust has been funding research with the aim to offer more targeted and less toxic treatments for children and young people with cancer. We’ve made some good progress, but we want to do so much more.

We will achieve so much more for children and young people by working together.

Phil BraceChief Executive of the Little Princess Trust

Early phase clinical trials are an essential component in the drive to develop innovative and effective new approaches to the treatment of cancer.

The Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office is delighted to partner with Cancer Research UK and the Little Princess Trust in funding the adult and paediatric ECMC’s here in Scotland.

Professor Dame Anna DominiczakScotland’s Chief Scientist for Health

Jim’s story:

Jim McCallum, from Paisley, was shocked when he was diagnosed with cancer in 2017.

The 76-year-old said: “The day I was told it was cancer shook me to the core. I think I had known but you always hope that they tell you it’s just a harmless lump.”

The retired secondary school headteacher had visited his GP with a lump in his neck and, after being referred for hospital tests, was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin lymphoma.

He said: “That was the worst day, being told I had cancer.”

Early in 2018 Jim underwent chemotherapy but unfortunately his lymphoma did not respond as well as the doctors had hoped, and he was told the cancer had spread.

The father of two said: “After that first shock of diagnosis I tried never to get too high about progress or too low about the lack of progress.

“Cancer is such an insidious disease, you can never be sure where you are with it, and you do start to wonder how many treatment options are left to you.”

When doctors told him about a clinical trial he was keen to be a part of it. Around March 2020 he was admitted to hospital to take part in the CAR T-cell therapy clinical trial through the Glasgow ECMC.

Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapy is a type of immunotherapy.* White blood cells called lymphocytes play an important part in fighting infection and diseases, including cancer. There are different types of lymphocytes. T cells are one type.

T cells are good at fighting infection. But it can be difficult for them to tell the difference between a cancer and a normal cell. So the cancer cells can hide away and not be recognised. Scientists are trying to find ways to get T cells to recognise cancer cells and one possible way to do this might be CAR T-cell therapy.

With CAR T-cell therapy, a specialist collects and makes a small change in the laboratory to a patient’s T cells, changing them in to CAR-T-cells. The CAR-T-cells then multiply in the laboratory over several weeks and once there are enough cells, the patient receives the cells back in to their bloodstream via a drip. The aim is that the CAR T-cells can then recognise and attack the cancer cells.

Jim was monitored in hospital for a week after the CAR T-cell therapy treatment and came home just as the Covid-19 pandemic forced people to stay at home.

He said: “I had already been in a lockdown as they had stopped visitors to the hospital including my wife Margaret. But I was incredibly lucky, with the timing, being able take part in the trial before the full impact of Covid-19 struck the UK.”

Since completing the trial nearly three years ago, Jim has been closely monitored by medical staff and is still currently cancer-free and not taking any treatment at all for the disease.

He said: “They can’t find any trace of the cancer now. After the CAR T-cell therapy trial, there was only one small tumour but they gave me another treatment for that and it has also gone.

“I was just so glad they had a treatment I could try and taking part in a trial also has the potential to help others as well, it’s all about gathering information.”

The grandfather of three granddaughters, Jim is now enjoying spending time with family, playing golf and his guitar and is full of praise for the medical staff at all the hospitals where he has received treatment.

He added: “I can’t say just how good the hospitals have been and that is a huge element of going through cancer treatment. I feel I have been incredibly lucky.”