New cancer centre opens in Sutton

A new state-of-the-art Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery worth £75 million has opened in Sutton, London, with a virtual opening ceremony held on the 17th of November. The centre is part of the London Cancer Hub site that is currently under development in Sutton, which aims to be a global centre for cancer research and life sciences campus. 

The London Cancer Hub is a major long-term regeneration project in Sutton and is a partnership between The Institute of Cancer Research, London and the London Borough of Sutton, with support from The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, Epsom and St Helier NHS Universities Trust and the Greater London Authority. A response to the need for expansion for the Royal Marsden and the Institute of Cancer Research, the hub is intended to establish a world-leading centre for life sciences research and increase the rate of discovery of new treatments. A science-specialist secondary school, the Sutton Harris Academy, is also located on the premises to provide links between students and researchers and clinicians.

Councillor Ruth Dombey, of Sutton Council, said: “I am delighted that Sutton is now home to this world-leading cancer research centre, cementing our borough’s position at the heart of the global pursuit for cancer cures and treatments.

“The work that will be done at the Centre for Drug Discovery is truly inspiring to learn about, and I’m pleased that the links we have fostered between Sutton schools and the ICR mean that some of the next generation of cancer-beating scientists could come from the Cancer Hub’s own doorstep.”

Sutton Council aims to create 280,000m² of state-of-the-art facilities and infrastructure in a campus location. The site is intended to be redeveloped at a cost of over £1 billion and is expected to create more than 13,000 jobs. The development is planned over the next 20 years.

The work of the Institute for Cancer Research includes research on cancer evolution with the Centre for Evolution and Cancer. The centre applies theories of Charles Darwin’s principle of natural selection within ecosystems to better understand how cancers develop and why drug resistance occurs by looking into the genetic components of different cancers. The researchers include computational biologists, geneticists, cell biologists and clinical scientists and the centre is supported by the Wellcome Trust. The new Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery in Sutton will also focus on treatments designed to prevent tumours from evolving resistance. This is a form of natural selection, as certain cancer cells evolve to become resistant. Through technologies such as single-cell genome sequencing this process can now be examined. Possible treatments include anti-inflammatory drugs and hormone treatments.

Professor Paul Workman, Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “This new building is the embodiment of our research strategy, which centres on overcoming cancer evolution and drug resistance – the major challenge we face today in cancer research and treatment. The Centre will bring together our cancer evolution scientists with our drug discovery researchers all under one roof, so they can more easily share ideas and spark new discoveries.”

The Sutton site currently consists of the Epsom and St Helier/Sutton Hospital, The Royal Marsden and the Sutton branch of The Institute of Cancer Research. The Sutton hospital is currently vacant, and Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust may re-locate some services to the London Cancer Hub. The project has secured funding of £8.4 million from the Strategic Investment Pot which is administered by the City of London to fund the first wave of development of commercial life science buildings. A Knowledge Centre will be developed, which will include labs, offices and collaboration spaces. Sutton Council is also planning to deliver a new Innovation Gateway in an existing building owned by the council, immediately adjacent to the Institute of Cancer Research. 

The Sutton Local Plan, adopted in 2018, identifies a series of challenges to the development, including outdated facilities and a lack of public transport. The current site is currently fragmented and has developed incrementally. Sutton Council seeks to improve the public transport links, secure investment in infrastructure and improve traffic and parking management in and around the site. Sutton Council has commissioned transport consultants WSP to identify transport improvements required at each stage of the developments and will encourage sustainable modes of transport in its travel plans. Proposed transport measures include enhancements to local bus services, improvements to road junctions, cycling improvements and extension of the Tramlink to Sutton Station and the London Cancer Hub.

There are also business development opportunities as a result of the regeneration project. Sutton Council suggests that pharmaceutical companies could be interested in collaborating, as they have done with previous similar institutions, and that SMEs could also be attracted to the hub. It is intended for life science businesses to co-locate and collaborate with the academic research centre and it is estimated that the London Cancer Hub could bring over £1 billion per annum to the UK economy.

In terms of job growth, it is hoped that the London Cancer Hub will bring employment opportunities to the Sutton area. The borough of Sutton is currently the eighth most economically active borough population in London and the London Cancer Hub should create 2,470 managerial and professional jobs, 1,950 associate technical and professional jobs and 2,015 administrative and service level jobs. Sutton Council considers the administrative and service level jobs to be most likely to accommodate the local labour market.

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