A Brief History of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute
Specialised cancer treatment in Manchester developed in the early years of the 20th Century with the establishment of two hospitals, the Christie Hospital and the Holt Radium Institute. These two institutions came together in 1932 on the present site in Withington, about 2 miles south of the main campus of the University of Manchester and the Manchester Royal Infirmary. The Holt Radium Institute was renamed the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research in 1962 and a few years later received core funding support from the Cancer Research Campaign, which was subsequently transferred to Cancer Research UK in 2002, following its amalgamation with the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. The name was again changed to the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute on 1 October 2013, to acknowledge the core funding provided by the charity.
The first Director, Professor Ralston Paterson, was the leading authority in the world at that time in the treatment of cancer by radiotherapy and he was instrumental in setting standards and establishing high quality radiotherapy treatment centres in many countries throughout the world. In addition, together with his wife, Dr Edith Paterson, he established a programme of basic research into cancer, particularly in the fields of radiation science, genetics and drug development. The research was initially carried out in a series of huts and converted houses adjacent to the Hospital.
When the Patersons retired in 1962, Professor Laszlo Lajtha was appointed as the first full-time director of the research laboratories. It was he who named the research laboratories after the Patersons. He built on the research programmes, started by his predecessors but, also, introduced research into his own fields of interest, experimental haematology and epithelial biology. With the financial backing of a local charity, the Women's Trust Fund, he developed the building which housed the cancer research laboratories. He also strengthened the financial base by securing core funding from the Medical Research Council and the Cancer Research Campaign. Professor Lajtha was also instrumental in persuading the Cancer Research Campaign to locate the CRC Department of Medical Oncology, founded by Professor Derek Crowther, and who retired in 1997.
Professor Lajtha was succeeded in 1983 by the second Director, Professor David Harnden, who introduced molecular biology and built-up cancer genetics, as well as continuing the already successful activities in experimental haematology, radiation biology, carcinogenesis, epithelial biology. He set up a new Department of Drug Development which combined various groups working on drugs already in the clinic and new generation drugs.
The laboratory was further extended and improved with grants from the Kay Kendall Leukaemia Fund, the Cancer Research Campaign, the Christie Hospital Research Endowments and, once again, the Women's Trust Fund. In 1981, just prior to Professor Harnden's appointment, the Cancer Research Campaign took over sole responsibility for the major funding of the Institute but the Christie Hospital Research Endowments also provide much support.
Following Professor Harnden's retirement in 1997, Professor T. Michael Dexter, F.R.S. briefly became the Director of the Institute before becoming the Director of the Wellcome Trust.
Professor Nic Jones became the Director in March 1999 and he also led a research group studying how cells respond to sudden adverse changes in their surroundings, known as 'environmental stress'. During Nic’s tenure he brought about several significant changes that revitalised the Institute, improving and expanding the quality of the research portfolio and facilitating translational and clinical research. The Paterson Institute became part of The University of Manchester in 2006, which helped to drive forward and shape the Manchester Cancer Research Centre (MCRC). Professor Jones became Director of the MCRC and increased the capacity and ambition for research at the Institute and University with the development of the Oglesby Cancer Research Building which opened in 2015.
On 1 February 2011, Nic stepped down from his position as Director of the Paterson Institute to become Chief Scientist of Cancer Research UK, which he undertook on a part-time basis alongside his role as Director of the MCRC until 2016 when he stepped down from these roles. He continues to work closely with the University advising on major strategic initiatives and research awards.
Professor Richard Marais took up the position of Institute Director on 1 February 2012. Under his stewardship Institute biomarker discovery expanded to become a Centre in its own right. Richard oversaw the integration of next-generation -omic technology into the Institute portfolio and enhanced links with clinical colleagues in The Christie. The Institute faced one of its greatest challenges during Richard’s tenure - the Paterson Building fire in April 2017. This was a devastating event, but the strength of Richard’s leadership and ability to galvanise and reassure staff played a major role in the Institute recovering and re-establishing its important research at Alderley Park. Currently a new enhanced and integrated cancer research facility is being constructed on the old Paterson Building site. Richard stepped down as Director in 2021 but continues to lead his Molecular Oncology group at the Institute.
Caroline Dive CBE, who leads the CRUK Manchester Institute Cancer Biomarker Centre, is acting Interim Director until a new Director is appointed in 2023. She will oversee the return of the Institute from Alderley Park to The Christie site.