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05 April 2024

Cancer Research UK announce £10.5m boost for clinician scientist training

Cancer Research UK has announced that organisations in its City of London Centre network are set to receive a multimillion-pound cash injection to train more doctors as clinician scientists so they can undertake cancer research.

Medical research scientist

The funding will enable institutions inside the Cancer Research UK City of London (CoL) network, which includes King’s, University College London, Queen Mary University London and the Francis Crick Institute, to continue to train the next generation of clinician scientists, improve the diversity of clinical research teams, and help accelerate development of cancer treatments.

Cancer Research UK’s Clinical Academic Training Programme Award will provide clinician scientists the opportunity to be involved in some of the best cancer research at King’s and across the Cancer Research UK City of London community.”

Professor Anita Grigoriadis, Head of the Comprehensive Cancer Centre and joint-Head of the School of Cancer & Pharmaceutical Sciences

Clinician scientists play an essential role in translating cancer research, helping to bridge the gap between scientific research carried out in laboratories and clinical research involving patients. Working across both research settings, their contributions to new knowledge and its translation to clinical practice are critical for cancer research.

Cancer Research UK’s Clinical Academic Training Programme Award (CATP) will continue to transform clinical research training at nine of its research centres over the next five years. It builds on the 5-year £50.7 million investment awarded by the charity in 2019. In total, Cancer Research UK will have invested more than £109 million in this programme over ten years, signalling the critical role the charity plays in supporting the UK’s life sciences ecosystem, funding around 50% of all publicly-funded research in the UK.

“Clinician scientists have a very important role to play by bringing their knowledge and experience of treating people with cancer to scientific research."

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s Chief Executive

She added: “We need all our doctors and scientists to be able to reach their full potential, no matter their background. That’s why we are continuing to provide flexible training options for early-career clinician scientists. After the success of the first five years of this programme, we want to encourage even more clinicians to get involved in cancer research to help us get closer to a world where everybody lives longer, better lives free from the fear of cancer.” 

Becoming a clinician scientist usually involves doctors taking time out of their medical training to undertake a PhD, before returning to train in their chosen specialisation, but many clinicians don’t come back to research after qualifying as consultants. This may be due to existing pressure on the healthcare system and lack of available funding.

Nearly three quarters (74%) of clinical research staff surveyed by Cancer Research UK in 2023 said that it has become harder to deliver research in a timely manner in the last 18 months, with 78% of respondents describing wider pressures on the health service as a substantial or extreme barrier.

To address this problem, Cancer Research UK awards funding to provide flexible training options alongside mentorship and networking opportunities to better support clinicians who want to get involved and stay in cancer research, through building stronger clinician scientist networks within and across research institutes.

In particular, the funding allows universities to offer combined Bachelor of Medicine-Doctor of Philosophy (MB-PhD) qualifications to early career clinicians – which allows medical students to complete a PhD earlier in their medical training.

Data from the Medical Schools Council Clinical Academic Survey reports a decline in the number of clinical academic positions between 2011–2020. US data also suggests that offering combined MB-PhD qualifications retains more women in clinical research roles.

Elizabeth Harvey-Jones is a student whose PhD was funded due to a CATP fellowship.

“Cancer Research UK’s Clinical Academic Training Programme Award will provide fantastic training opportunities for clinician scientists. The award means that more clinicians will have access to vital research roles, contributing to the future of cancer research."

Elizabeth Harvey-Jones, PhD student

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