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MRC Cancer Unit


MRC Activity Book 2020


Together with other MRC Units and Institutes in Cambridge, the MRC Cancer Unit has produced an Activity Book for people of all ages to explore the variety of MRC-funded work that takes place in Cambridge. We hope that it will provide a visual summary of the diverse MRC funded research in Cambridge, and inspire you to learn more about research at the MRC CU.

 MRC Activity Book 2020

Big Biology Day, October 2019


Pint of Science, August 2019



Schools Roadshow - Sawston Village Colleg Stem Club, June 2019




MRC Festival of Research, June 2019



University Science Festival, March 2019




Big Biology Day 2018

Big Biology Day 2018 was yet another great show of teamwork from the MRC CU! Between the most dedicated bunch of students and post-docs, ever, the CU team told a story about cancer- ranging from matrix mazes, to the metabolic traffic lights that check-post cancer, to how clever new ways of using computer models, simple devices and new technology coupled to patient observation – can help fight cancer - early! More than 3000 people came to the event which also featured almost every major research department from across the Clinical School and several of the pharma companies from the Biomedical campus, amongst others. The day long evet was organised by Ian Harvey, Head of Public Engagement and former head of Biology, at Hills Road Sixth Form school. Here is a selection of images from the day:


MRC Festival of Medical Research, 2018


The MRC Festival of Medical Research (14-24 June, 2018) was celebrated at the Unit with a visit from the South Cambridgeshire MP, Heidi Allen and an Open Day for students from local sixth form schools.

The two events served as platforms to showcase the Units mission, celebrate the importance and relevance of the funding we receive in terms of the cutting-edge research it enables, discuss the challenges and future directions associated with the work we do and last, but not the least, inspire the next generation of researchers to take up careers in the STEM subjects and engage in research.


 Visit to the Unit by  South Cambridgeshire MP, Heidi Allen


Schools Open Day for local sixth form students


 * More images of this event can be viewed  here


Cambridge Science Festival 2018


On the day the clocks sprang forward, team Hutch was out there, yet again taking part in the Cambridge Science Festival. In spite of the formidable weather, this year the Festival recorded a footfall of 67000 people over the two weeks and the Biomedical Campus had over 3000 visitors in one day alone, at the event held in the CAST building!   Sharing a room with the CRUK CI and the University society CATS (who had models of their own this year, thanks to the MRC CU sponsorship from last year), the Hutch activities, diverse and each brilliant in its own way, were themed around the importance of Early in Cancer. Particularly poignant, was the fact that this year we had patients who had benefitted from the research that had started out in our labs, spending the day with us to tell their story. Visitors young and old enjoyed their day, be it through hooking ducks to discover mutations, pretending to be a cancer cell navigating a blood vessel, simulating a western blot or a mass spec device or playing early detection sleuths catching rouge cancer cells. Not only did our scientists talk about the traffic light genes that stall cancers on their journey, but they also managed to punch in an inspirational element for the younger ones about how a scientist was a person just like themselves. We are grateful to the Cambridge MRC Community for a second edition of the MRC Cambridge Activity Book and to our CRUK CI and CCC colleague for help with the logistics.



Cambridge MP, Daniel Zeichner visits the MRC Cancer Unit

The MRC Cancer Unit  recently hosted a visit by the Cambridge MP, Daniel Zeichner. In response to the Units invitation to local parliamentarians  as part of its celebrations of the MRC Festival of Medical Research, Mr Zeichner visited the Unit on the 14th of July. During his almost two hour long visit, the MP engaged in a very stimulating group discussion with all the Cancer Unit PIs about the importance and future of ongoing cancer  research focussed on ‘early’ detection, patient stratification and intervention, in keeping with the stated mission of the Unit. He was also taken on a tour across the research labs, where he interacted with students and post-doctoral researchers.

 Daniel Zeichner, MP with teh MRC CU group leaders



 MRC Festival of Medical Research, 2017- Celebrations at the MRC CU

The MRC Festival of Research this year was celebrated across the country from 17- 25 June. The main aim of the festival was to (1) Engage the MRC community to increase understanding of the MRC's strategic aims and their own contribution to these (2) Build trust in medical research by sharing MRC-funded research with audiences (3) Increase awareness and understanding of the benefits of medical research to society.

As part of this, the MRC Cancer Unit decided to focus on engaging with young minds through an Open Day at the Unit itself and the inauguration of a rolling Schools Roadshow program to visit schools outside of Cambridge. Our aim was both to showcase the research that goes on at our Unit, with special emphasis on the importance of ‘early’ in all aspects of cancer research as well as to highlight how numerous career opportunities open up through undergraduate and post-graduate training in science, technology and research.

On a scorching summer’s day, we had about fifty sixth-form students visiting us from four different local schools (Hills Road, Long Road, Parkside Federation and The Perse). Small batches of students along with their teachers were taken on a tour of our research labs where they had a chance to interact with our students and staff members and the opportunity to try out some of the hands-on experiments that had been carefully designed for them. To finish off there was a careers session over cakes and juice with a chance to meet staff from across the spectrum (research group leaders to science support), students and post-docs and a bag full of MRC memorabilia to take home. In spite of the hectic and hot afternoon, all the enthusiastic young visitors and our Unit members alike had a great time. Here is a flavour of what it was like on the day.



The same was true of our inaugural visit to Comberton Village College on the 23rd of June where our researchers and our partner team from the Cambridge University Society, CATS, presented an eclectic mix of research and career stories. So well received was this short presentation, that the MRC CU have been requested to come back in the autumn and talk to the whole school! …Here is a glimpse of that afternoon.

Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald of the MRC CU interviews for Radio 4s PM

On Monday the 13th March, Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald,  was interviewed by BBC Radio 4’s  flagship news programme, PM.  This interview with the renowned presenter Eddie Mair highlights research carried out in the Fitzgerald lab at the MRC CU over the past many years that has led to the fruition of the  early detection device - Cytosponge (‘Pill on a String’) - which is now in phase 3 clinical trials and may revolutionise early detection of Upper GI cancers.  This interview  is perhaps particularly timely given the recent series of interviews with the, sadly now deceased, journalist Steve Hewlett. Steve’s reflections about his journey, from diagnosis to his untimely death,  through Oesophageal Cancer were broadcast every week on the same program and became hugely popular  and highlighted the need for research into earlier detection of cancers – something that is reflected through Rebecca’s research in this instance and is exactly the mission of the MRC Cancer  Unit, overall .


The Hutch at the Cambridge University Science Festival, 2017

On a day filled with glorious sunshine what a fantastic celebration it was for the MRC CU to mark the last day of the Cambridge Science Festival, 2017! The event was hosted again this year at the CRUK CI building as a collaborative effort between members of the Cambridge Cancer Centre. The Unit had a great team of students, post-docs and staff who were joined by the Cambridge University society, CATS, to promote the Unit’s mission through all the 8 activity stands that were on display. In addition, there were 2 very well attended talks (150+ visitors) presented by members of the Unit, relating to the role of computational biology in cancer and the link between metabolism and cancer.  With 300 + visitors ranging from retired pensioners to primary school children, it was a day filled with the buzz of creativity. All the activities at the stands had been carefully designed in-house with months of thought and effort having gone into it. Be it the hands-on experience of a key-hole surgery model, anatomical models of disease, using raspberry pies fruits and ducks to illustrate cancer mutations in the genetic code, a bespoke cancer invasion maze or chromosomes models to understand the impact of genomic instability, there was something to meet everyone’s taste and curiosity.  It was also a great opportunity to show-case the breadth of MRC funded science in Cambridge through the well-received MRC Colouring Book–a joint creation between various MRC Units in Cambridge. Last, but not the least, the event allowed the Unit to highlight the upcoming MRC Festival of Medical Research through publicity leaflets distributed to all visitors. Overall, a fun filled day of creativity and science coming together!