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Buckingham Palace and Blue Plaques: ICR’s 2018 year in review


It's been a busy, and exciting, year for the ICR. In this blog post we look back and reflect on some of our highlights that exemplify the broad range of stimulating and thought-provoking work that happens here.

Posted on 19 December, 2018 by Rose Wu & Dr Keith Bradnam

Collage of images associated with news stories from throughout 2018

Clockwise from top left: Matthew Rose performs at  'Recitals for Research', our cancer drug access report, the ICR's new blue plaque from the Royal Society for Chemistry, MRI scan of a brain tumour, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall present our Professors Paul Workman and Raj Chopra with the Queen's Anniversary Prize, Dr Chris Bakal's winning image from the Science Photography Prize 2018.

It's been a busy, and exciting, year for The Institute of Cancer Research, London. We recently showcased some of the scientific achievements of the last academic year that reflect examples of our world-class cancer research.

In this blog post we want to look back and reflect on some of our other highlights of the year that exemplify the broad range of stimulating and thought-provoking work that happens here at the ICR.


We are passionate about ensuring the research environment is supportive for our science and that involves working with policy makers and other influential figures. In January, Dr Bissan Al-Lazikani, Head of Data Science at the ICR, addressed the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee about how we use data in, and its importance to, the fight against cancer.

A popular blog post by Dr Eva Sharpe, the ICR’s Head of Policy and Engagement, explored how ‘Big Data’ approaches are creating new opportunities for drug discovery as well as informing the way we treat patients - leading to better cures with fewer side effects.


In February, scientists from the ICR attended a ceremony at Buckingham Palace to accept a prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize from the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall. The honour recognised our institution’s world-leading research in cancer drug discovery.

The ICR also secured major funding for a new paediatric brain tumour centre, jointly with the University of Cambridge, as part of a new investment from Cancer Research UK and the Department for Health and Social Care.


Our annual Science Photography prize competition showcases the beauty often found in scientific and medical images and how they can be used to tell a story. We announced the winners in March with the competition being won by Dr Chris Bakal whose prize-winning image was generated using a new 'total internal reflection fluorescence' (TIRF) microscope.

Our latest research shows that within the next decade, we can make acute lymphoblastic leukaemia preventable. Your support will help us make this disease a thing of the past.



Professor Johann de Bono, Regius Professor of Cancer Research at the ICR and an honorary consultant at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, was recognised at The Annual Meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR), where he received the 2018 AACR–Joseph H. Burchenal Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Cancer Research.

The award recognises Professor de Bono’s outstanding and world-leading research in the clinical development of personalised cancer treatments.


In May, the ICR launched ‘Recital for Research’ – a new addition to the ICR's special events calendar which also includes the flagship social and fundraising event Carols from Chelsea.

This month also saw Professor Mel Greave’s landmark childhood leukaemia research make waves around the world – giving the hope that we may, one day, be able to prevent many cases of childhood leukaemia. The news story also led to record-breaking traffic and engagement on our social media channels.


The ICR was recognised for our collaboration with industry by being ranked highly in an independent evaluation funded by the European Commission. The assessment, by U-Multirank, scored higher education institutions in a number of categories, including the quality of their research and their 'knowledge transfer' – which measures collaboration with industry and contribution to patents.

The ICR was ranked 30th out of more than 1,200 higher education institutions worldwide and came top when ranking for the percentage of publications cited in patents. We also ranked fourth in the world for the proportion of publications that are highly cited.


Our annual awards ceremony took place in July, an event that celebrates the hard work and achievements of our graduating students. The ceremony also saw honorary doctorates awarded to BBC broadcaster and journalist Victoria Derbyshire, the former Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK Sir Harpal Kumar and renowned cancer researcher Professor Bill Kaelin.

And marking the first international LGBT in STEM day, Science Communications Officer, Conor McKeever, wrote a blog post about the work the ICR is doing to support and raise the visibility of this community in our workplace.


Each year, we ask scientists across the ICR to show us their skills as communicators in the hugely popular Mel Greaves Science Writing Prize.

Winning articles this year covered topics ranging from how cancer research is covered in the media, and how the public should know what to believe, to how diet can affect cancer - to a moving personal account of one researcher grappling with her mother’s diagnosis of cancer.


In September, the first patient in the UK received a pioneering new form of radiotherapy - on the MR Linac.

The MR Linac is the first technology in the world to simultaneously generate magnetic resonance images and deliver X-ray radiation beams — allowing radiotherapy to be adjusted in real time and delivered more accurately and effectively than ever before - even to tumours that are moving, for example as a patient breathes.

Third-year PhD student Joshua Freedman wrote a blog describing his part in helping to develop new approaches to support treatment planning and guidance on the MR Linac.


In October, the ICR’s Enterprise Unit and global healthcare company BTG announced the successful conclusion of negotiations with biopharmaceutical company, Carrick Therapeutics, to take a promising precision ovarian cancer drug discovered at the ICR into a later-stage clinical trial. Earlier trials showed the drug could benefit women with high-grade ovarian cancer, for whom chemotherapy has failed.

Dr Angela Kukula, Director of Enterprise at the ICR, wrote a blog calling on universities and businesses to celebrate the range of different collaborations we make.

We've selected a range of discoveries from 2017/18 – chosen because they illustrate the quality and breadth of our basic, translational and clinical research and our ambitions under the ICR's research strategy.

Read more


The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) annual conference brings together over 1,500 world-leading cancer researchers and clinicians to discuss the latest advances and innovations in cancer research. ICR researchers featured prominently across the three days, chairing and presenting on many sessions, ranging from liquid biopsies, to cancer vulnerabilities to the clinical impact of immunotherapy

At the ICR’s stand, we also distributed resources and information to support recruitment to ICR Faculty, and to showcase our world-class facilities.


Ending the year with a bang, the ICR was awarded prestigious blue plaques for our buildings in Chelsea and Sutton under the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Chemical Landmark scheme – which recognises sites where the chemical sciences have made a significant contribution to health, wealth, or quality of life. The plaques mark the ICR’s historic achievements in cancer drug discovery.

We also published an influential report that revealed NHS patients are waiting longer for new cancer drugs because of delays in taking them through clinical trials and getting them approved for use.

The report received widespread media interest and coverage, and praise from partner organisations and charities, for its call on the Government, regulators and pharmaceutical companies to work together to accelerate the pace of development of innovative cancer treatments. The findings also inspired cancer patients to contact their MPs calling for change to improve access to innovative new treatments.

What will 2019 bring?

The above list only reflects some of the many success stories that have involved ICR staff, students, and scientists this year. We’d like to thank everyone at the ICR for their hard work throughout 2018, work that continues to cement our reputation for excellence in research, teaching, and collaboration with industry.

And of course, none of this work would have been possible without the backing of our many donors, supporters, and funders. It’s been an amazing year and we look forward to more exciting developments, both in and out of the research lab, in 2019!


Chris Bakal Mel Greaves fundraising Bissan Al-Lazikani Paul Workman Johann de Bono Teaching Week award Enterprise Unit
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