Glasgow experts are to benefit as a leading cancer charity has committed £7.3 million to support the training and development of the next generation of doctors and scientists in Scotland. This investment aims to accelerate the introduction of new and improved cancer treatments for patients.

Cancer Research UK is to award the funding to train early-career clinician scientists – doctors who also carry out medical research – as part of its Clinical Academic Training Programme. 

The Clinical Academic Training Programme will invest £58.7m at nine research centres including the Cancer Research UK Scotland Centre in partnership with the Universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Strathclyde and the NHS.*  

Clinician scientists play an essential role in translating cancer research, helping to bridge the gap between scientific research carried out in laboratories and clinical research involving patients.  

Working across both research settings, their contributions to new knowledge and its translation to clinical practice are critical for cancer research.  

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s Chief Executive, said:  

“Clinician scientists have a very important role to play by bringing their knowledge and experience of treating people with cancer to scientific research.  

“We need all our doctors and scientists to be able to reach their full potential, no matter their background. That’s why we are continuing to provide flexible training options for early-career clinician scientists.  

“After the success of the first five years of this programme, we want to encourage even more clinicians to get involved in cancer research to help us get closer to a world where everybody lives longer, better lives free from the fear of cancer.”  

Becoming a clinician scientist usually involves doctors taking time out of their medical training to undertake a PhD, before returning to train in their chosen specialisation, but many clinicians don’t come back to research after qualifying as consultants. This may be due to existing pressure on the healthcare system and lack of available funding.   

Nearly three quarters (74%) of clinical research staff surveyed by Cancer Research UK in 2023 said that it has become harder to deliver research in a timely manner in the last 18 months, with 78% of respondents describing wider pressures on the health service as a substantial or extreme barrier.**  

To tackle this issue, Cancer Research UK’s Clinical Academic Training Programme provides flexible training options alongside mentorship and networking opportunities to better support clinicians who want to get involved and stay in cancer research.  

Data from the Medical Schools Council Clinical Academic Survey reports a decline in the number of clinical academic positions between 2011–2020.*** Research from the United States also suggests that offering combined qualifications retains more women in clinical research roles.****   

The Scottish programme will be led by Professor Charlie Gourley of the University of Edinburgh and Professor Richard Wilson of the University of Glasgow who are both clinicians and researchers. 

Professor Charlie Gourley, Clinical Director of the Cancer Research UK Scotland Centre* and co lead of the programme in Scotland, said:

“We are delighted to gain further Cancer Research UK funding and to work with colleagues across Scotland and the north of the UK to offer doctors new and flexible training opportunities so that they can become the clinical cancer researcher leaders of the future.   

“It is vital for our scientists to be able to work together in the lab with clinicians at all levels and specialities to find new and better treatments for cancer. This will undoubtedly lead to benefits for cancer patients in the longer term. 

 “My personal experience of balancing treating cancer patients while actively researching the disease has taught me that our support and mentorship of young cancer clinician scientists is crucial to ensure they achieve their goals and improve the outcome for the patients of the future”. 

Professor Chris Halsey, Head of the School of Cancer Sciences at the Unviersity of Glasgow and Professor of Paediatric Haemato-Oncology, said:  

“We are really grateful for this continuing support from Cancer Research UK which enables us to train the next-generation of clinical academics. These doctors have expertise in scientific research as well as medicine. This training provides a unique skill set which is vital to bridge the gap between scientific discoveries and development of new tests and treatments to increase cure rates from cancer.

“We are lucky to have a wide range of clinical academics working in the School of Cancer Sciences and CRUK Scotland Institute, from medical and clinical oncologists, haematologists, surgeons, pathologists and nuclear medicine specialists. This allows us to provide fantastic research opportunities and mentoring to the young doctors joining this scheme and ongoing support to make sure they realise their potential as research leaders of the future”