HE SCALE and the scope of the operation are sim-
ply breathtaking... purpose-built research centres, the
involvement of a region’s entire health service and a
crack squadron of highly-qualified specialist scientists.
The reason for the size of the multi-million-dollar project
becomes clear when its purpose is revealed: to try to find the
causes of cancer, the dreaded disease that strikes indiscrimi-
nately at all ages, races and social classes.
Scientists at Cambridge, where some of the planet’s top sci-
entific brains make their academic home, are thrilled to be able
to start a new kind of cancer research programme, aided by the
Li Ka Shing Foundation, whose funding has allowed purpose-
built centres to be constructed, equipped and staffed. The Cam-
bridge operation is the envy of Europe and has already lured
highly-rated specialists from the other side of the Atlantic.
The seeds of the project were sown when Mr Li Ka-shing read
a magazine story focusing on the work being carried out at Cam-
bridge University, the small city in eastern England with a big aca-
demic and scientific reputation. Further inquiries piquedhis inter-
est even more: the idea of helping such a groundbreaking project
appealed hugely to Mr Li and the result is the creation of the
Hutchison/MRC Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing Centre
through a total donation of GBP22 million (HKD341 million).
It is difficult to capture the scale of project without massive
oversimplification but in essence it aims to
find out how cancer works by studying the
genetics of the disease, how faulty genes make
cells go awry, and how risks of developing
different cancers can be inherited. All parties
involved – patient, doctor, researcher, admin-
istrator, drug companies – are locked into
one giant system and the interaction resulted
from having all these different elements and
resources in one geographical region should
increase the chances of success.
“The aim is to develop Cambridge as a centre
for cancer research and in particular as a centre
whichwill beof practical benefit topatients,” says
Professor Bruce Ponder, director of the Cancer
Research UKCambridge Research Institute.
“We now have a far stronger service for pa-
tients than we had five years ago and one that
integrates surgery, pathology, radiology and
cancer medicine through new multidisciplinary teams. These
deliver first-class care and are the foundation for our research.”
Key to the project’s success is Professor Ponder himself, who
made the decision to step slightly back from his front-line re-
search to take on more of an administrative role. He realised
that for the grand scheme to work – of ensur-
ing a smooth channel between all interested
and relevant parties – it would need someone
who was familiar with all disciplines. It was a selfless call, made
because he is convinced that the project is new, exciting and
likely to lead to major breakthroughs.
“The overall aim is to bring world class research to bear on
medical problems,” says Professor Ponder. “We can make earlier
The seeds of the project were sown when Mr Li read a magazine article
The Cambridge operation
is the envy of Europe.
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