Funding boost for next generation of clinical cancer scientists

Clinical academics specialising in cancer research in Newcastle can now access support at every stage of their career development journey.

Newcastle University has secured almost £1.5m from Cancer Research UK to continue its prestigious Clinical Academic Training Programme over the next five years. This will provide five fully funded PhD clinical fellowships and five bursaries for undergraduates looking to intercalate and to do a Masters of Research (MRes) degree, aligned with cancer focused research.

Academics on the programme will be supported throughout their training pathway by the Newcastle Health Innovation Partners (NHIP) Academy, which provides career development support and mentoring to the next generation of health and care researchers.

The funding from Cancer Research UK means that, combined with additional funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), the Academy can now support clinical academics specialising in cancer research at every stage of their career development journey.

Ruth Plummer, Professor of Experimental Cancer Medicine at Newcastle University and an Honorary Consultant Medical Oncologist at Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Cancer is something that impacts all of our lives in some form, however, it is only through research that we can accumulate the knowledge we need to develop treatments and prevention strategies to combat this disease.
“By providing support to the next generation of clinical cancer researchers, across their whole career pathway, Newcastle can nurture its exceptional talent as they go on to become the leaders of tomorrow and ensure we stay at the cutting edge of cancer research.”

The Clinical Academic Training Programme in Newcastle will initially attract students out of undergraduate training for an intercalated MRes year, mentoring them through the rest of their undergraduate degree.
This will provide students with support to join the Specialised Foundation Programme (SFP) and the NIHR Integrated Academic Training (IAT) Academic Clinical Fellowship (ACF) programmes to develop competitive PhD projects for CRUK-funded Clinical Research Training Fellowship (CRTF) posts and subsequent move into NIHR Clinical Lectureships (CL), with CRUK-funded bursaries available to support continuing progression towards independent investigator status.

Dave Jones, NHIP Academy Director and Professor of Liver Immunology at Newcastle University, said: “Outstanding research is only possible when we nurture and invest in the people who conduct that work.
“The award from Cancer Research UK means that the Academy can now provide pioneering, wraparound support to individuals pursuing research careers in cancer which spans from their MRes right through to independent investigator status – making a meaningful difference to our next generation of clinical scientists.”
NHIP Academy is the academic career development arm of NHIP, the Newcastle Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC). The Academy acts as both a physical and an intellectual hub for academic trainees, facilitating interaction between peers and creating a community of research active professionals, which is key for effective translational research. It provides guidance with funding applications and interview preparation, and also offers hotdesking and meeting spaces.

Professor Jones added: “By embedding the Clinical Academic Training Programme into NHIP Academy, we can provide a fully comprehensive training programme for aspiring clinical academics in cancer that ensures our fellows are under the support and oversight of a single organised structure.

“In addition to this, it provides a strong collegiate culture among the trainees at the different stages of their career development, with invaluable peer-to-peer support.”

Cancer Research UK’s Clinical Academic Training Programme Award will continue to transform clinical research training at nine of its research centres over the next five years. It builds on the five-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 10 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.

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s Chief Executive, said: “Clinician scientists have a very important role to play by bringing their knowledge and experience of treating people with cancer to scientific research.

“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.”

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