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£11m donation for University of Cambridge’s Early Cancer Institute

A landmark £11million donation has been given to the University of Cambridge’s Early Cancer Institute – the UK's only research facility dedicated to understanding early cancer.

Located on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, the institute brings together world-leading expertise from fields including biology, physics, mathematics, epidemiology, medicine, and computer science under one roof with one goal: to predict and prevent cancer.

Sir Ka-shing Li at the opening of the MRC Cancer Centre in the Hutchinson Building on 18 May, 2022. Picture: Li Ka Shing Foundation
Sir Ka-shing Li at the opening of the MRC Cancer Centre in the Hutchinson Building on 18 May, 2022. Picture: Li Ka Shing Foundation

The donation will support the redevelopment of the Hutchison building, home to the Early Cancer Institute. This will enable the institute to expand its research capabilities.

The building will be renamed the Li Ka Shing Early Cancer Institute in honour of the Hong Kong-based philanthropist Sir Ka-shing Li and the partnership between the Li Ka Shing Foundation and the University of Cambridge. Sir Ka-shing Li donated to the original Hutchison building in 2002, and then – in 2007 – to the Li Ka Shing Centre, which houses the CRUK Cambridge Institute.

Sir Ka-shing Li said: “I am greatly encouraged that much advancement has been made towards cancer diagnosis, treatment and prevention. It is also evident now that early detection of cancer will yield the best chance of successful treatment and quality of life for the patient.

“It is a great privilege, therefore, to support the transformation of the Hutchison building to become a centre of excellence and a fitting home for the national Early Cancer Research Institute and a first of its kind in the UK.”

Researchers at the institute are focusing on cancers that are hard to treat, such as lung, oesophageal and liver cancers, and acute myeloid leukaemia. Detection and treatment methods have changed very little for these types of cancer over the past few years, and outcomes are often poor. Detecting and treating cancer earlier will dramatically increase survival rates and reduce healthcare costs across all tumour types.

By working across disciplines to understand the fundamental biology of how cancer develops and evolves, researchers at the institute are making pioneering early detection research advances and translating these into clinical practice.

They have used the power of theoretical physics methods to identify blood cancer years before the patient has symptoms, while biology and chemical engineering experts have collaborated to develop a method to detect and destroy early lung cancer.

The institute’s director, Prof Rebecca Fitzgerald, pioneered the capsule sponge – a new test that can identify 10 times more heartburn patients with Barrett’s oesophagus, a pre-cursor to oesophageal cancer.

The device which aims to catch the disease when it is easier to treat, thus helping more people survive.

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