Our vision for Cancer Research at Sheffield

Cancer research driven by patient needs.

Across Yorkshire, cancer is often diagnosed later than elsewhere in England. Following the successful development of three cancer drugs by the University of Sheffield, our researchers are working to improve early diagnosis, as well as prevention and treatments in our region and beyond.

The population within Yorkshire is more likely to die from many common cancers, than elsewhere within England. This reflects a combination of risk factors, such as poverty and lifestyle choices, geographic spread, healthcare design and unknown regional features. The University of Sheffield is embarking on a ten-year programme of work that aims to reduce cancer-related morbidity and mortality for our patients of today and tomorrow. This research programme will be driven by the needs of patients and will inform prevention, early diagnosis, and better treatments that improve national and international survival rates. The multimillion- pound cancer research strategy has been made possible following the success of Lynparza (Olaparib) developed by our researchers at Sheffield with funding from Yorkshire Cancer Research. New funding streams – the ‘YCR Sheffield Pioneers fund’ and the ‘YCR More Life to Live fund’ – are together forecast to be worth around £10m per year. They are ringfenced for University of Sheffield-led research and are expected to support pioneering cancer research for at least
the next decade.

Our University has a history of success in pioneering new diagnostic techniques and treatments for cancer patients. Our research is driven by data. We work with experts in different fields and engage policy makers to address all aspects of cancer research and make improvements possible.

With access to world-class specialists and clinicians through facilities like the Sheffield Cancer Research Centre and Weston Park Hospital (one of only four dedicated cancer hospitals in England), we’re putting patients, and the specific challenges faced by people in Yorkshire, at the heart of our research strategy to create solutions for today’s most pressing cancer challenges.

Sheffield Cancer Research strategy

Sheffield is the sole tertiary cancer centre for the 1.8 million people living in South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire, making us
one of the highest volume NHS cancer centres in England and Wales. Our population live within regions geographically focused around local heavy industries, with areas of high social deprivation and low social mobility which are determinants of poor health and cancer and provide a stable population for observation.

Sheffield offers direct reach into and access to the Yorkshire population, which is greater than Scotland, with around 10% of the UK residents living here, and is representative of both. Reasons for poor outcomes and death from many cancers in Sheffield mirror those across all Yorkshire, across England and within Europe.

Sheffield presents an ideal platform to test initiatives to reduce the burden of cancer morbidity and mortality through both
prevention and treatment and the lessons learnt in Yorkshire will be used to improve cancer outcomes globally.

Integrating with centres of excellence within the University, we are looking to re-focus to a more clinical and translational approach to healthcare research that is directly relevant to the cancers that most affect our population. We will use a data driven, problem-based approach towards a platform of multimodal cancer research and treatment and have established five inter-related themes of research that address cancer research from prevention to screening, diagnosis, treatment, follow up, palliation, survival and quality of life. Developing an understanding our population in detail will deliver the insights necessary for a successful research and development pipeline at the University of Sheffield.

Theme 1: Cancer prevention and early diagnosis

Theme leads: Prof Nick Latimer & Dr Caroline Mitchell

The research within this theme will describe and analyse the characteristics of Yorkshire populations and patients, and the cancers experienced there, to help identify factors that contribute to poor outcomes. The vision is that gaining a better understanding of our patients, will help to develop targeted interventions and screening programmes to improve survival through earlier diagnosis.

Theme 2: Digital health, big data, advanced diagnostic technologies and rethinking the delivery of cancer care

Theme lead: Prof Jim Catto

The research within this theme will integrate technology and digital health to re-envisage cancer care. The vision is that digital healthcare information, artificial intelligence and more intelligent use of novel diagnostics in clinical pathways will increase the volume and safety of community-based oncology treatments, thus saving NHS costs and improving patient experiences. Digital technology can also be used to inform risk profiles.

Theme 3: Translational and precision cancer medicine

Theme lead: Dr Munitta Muthana

This theme will integrate genomic profiling with NHS cancer pathways to reveal insights into the role and opportunities of modern genomics and precision oncology in cancer care, offer pipelines of patients for the next generation of pharmaceutical studies and feed into discovery and molecular research in the university.

Theme 4: Improving outcomes for cancer patients

Theme leads: Prof Sarah Danson & Prof Ingunn Holen

The vision is to discover new treatments or better ways of giving current treatments, as well as develop new methodology for matching treatment to patients’ individual cancers. This theme encompasses discovery science – identifying new molecules and mechanisms; therapeutic innovation – developing novel treatments and combinations; and precision oncology –improving patient selection to optimise therapeutic response.

Theme 5: Enhancing patient experience and voice

Theme leads: Dr Catriona Mayland and Dr Stefania Vicari

Our research will focus on improving quality of life by developing a holistic approach across the whole cancer experience. This will span risk and prevention to diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, palliative and supportive care as well as bereavement support. By supporting empirical research, including studies of digital data, we will address different experiences in terms of the access to, and the provision of, services for cancer prevention and care. Inclusivity is a key driver of this theme, with a vision that has patients and those important to them at the centre of what we do.