Groundbreaking cancer trials centre launched in Dundee

May was diagnosed with cancer five years ago

THE LAUNCH of a new centre announced today to run clinical trials of the newest cancer treatments will put Dundee at the forefront of cancer research and bring benefits to patients in the area.

The newly-created joint Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC), is the latest addition a network of 18 UK centres, which are jointly funded by Cancer Research UK and the Departments of Health in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

The patients taking part in these early trials cannot usually be helped by existing treatments, such as conventional surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. As such they have few treatment options and may even have months and sometimes only weeks to live. The ECMC network provides treatment options for these patients, and underpins the development of treatments which may help many patients in the future.

The Dundee centre will twin with the existing ECMC at Edinburgh. This joint centre will receive a grant based on its scientific and clinical excellence.

Professor Alastair Thompson, director of the Dundee ECMC, at the  University of Dundee, said: “We are delighted that the Dundee Cancer Centre is linking with Edinburgh to build on their significant achievements to date.

“This important new centre will bring together cancer doctors, research nurses and laboratory scientists to make clinical trials of new cancer treatments quicker and easier in Dundee and the rest of the UK.

“Dundee is home to world-leading scientists and doctors who have made great progress in developing new cancer treatments. This support will boost our vital work, enabling us to move towards our goal to increase cancer survival.”

The joint ECMC will have a particular focus on trials to treat breast cancer, bowel cancer, skin cancer and ovarian cancer as well as studies to improve imaging techniques to detect cancer.

May Williamson, 53, of Fintry, Dundee, is grateful to Cancer Research UK scientists in Dundee as she is responding well to a treatment she has been receiving as part of an early stage drug trial.

The grandmother was originally diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago. This was initially treated successfully with surgery and chemotherapy. However, in March last year, May became unwell and doctors discovered that the cancer had returned and had spread to her liver.


Treatment with chemotherapy and Herceptin proved effective for a time, however, in January, she was given the devastating news that the drug was no longer working.

May decided to take up the opportunity to enter into an early stage research trial for a drug called TDM1 which she receives at the Ugo Stefani Clinical Trials Centre at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.

May, who worked as a barmaid before she became unwell, said: “To be told that the treatment you are receiving for cancer is no longer working is absolutely devastating. While I try my very best to keep an open and positive outlook, you need to have hope. I’m looking forward to a second grandchild in March and I’m determined to enjoy as much quality time as I can with my family. So far, I’m responding well to this treatment and I really hope that it does prove to be effective.

“I feel lucky that I am able to take part in this trial in Dundeeand am glad that researchers here have received this boost which will mean that cancer patients will benefit from new and improved treatments.”

Professor David Harrison, director of the Edinburgh ECMC, at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Through this partnership we’ll be able to broaden the scope of our research into the basic biology of how and why cancers are caused, driving the development of promising and innovative new treatments and supporting more clinical trials.

“This collaboration will also make it easier to develop new tests identifying which patients will benefit most from a given treatment – in effect, tailoring  treatment according to the biological characteristics of patients’ tumours – saving lives and helping to make best use of NHS resources.”

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “I’m pleased to announce Scotland’s continued involvement in the next phase of the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre initiative.

“Each Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre brings together experts in cancer research with cancer doctors to speed up the flow of ideas from the lab bench to the patient’s bedside.

“Our funding contribution to the Glasgow and Edinburgh/Dundee ECMCs will help to further advance an initiative that is uniquely positioned to develop novel and effective treatments for cancer for years to come.”

Dr Joanna Reynolds, Cancer Research UK’s director of centres, said: “Funding these experimental cancer centres is a priority for the charity.

“The network is completely unique in the world. It enables scientists and doctors to work side-by-side across theUKto improve the treatment for cancer patients across all types of cancer. The result is a clinical trials network that has underpinned the development of some of the most promising and innovative new cancer treatments today.

“Some of these are already on the path to becoming established treatments for future cancer patients.

“It’s thanks to the generous donations we receive from the public that we are able to fund this important work. Survival rates for cancer have doubled over the last 40 years and we must continue to build on this great progress.”