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Eileen Parkes, Associate Professor in Innate Tumour Immunology in the Department of Oncology, will lead the expansion of the centre’s programmes in early drug development and biomarker research.

Oxford’s Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) aims to accelerate the development of new cancer treatments, with a scientific focus on RNA biology, DNA damage processing, and immunotherapy.  It also delivers programmes of concurrent clinical and biomarker research designed to stratify patients to ensure that the right cancer treatments are offered to the patients who are most likely to benefit.

This news follows the announcement earlier this year that Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health and Care Research are to invest £3 million into the Centre over the next five years. Professor Parkes will lead the Centre’s drive to increase the use of patient-derived data to inform decision-making in early phase trials and to develop new research hypotheses. The Centre will continue to explore novel, experimental treatments, focusing on immunotherapies and drugs targeted at RNA biology, for a wide variety of cancers, as well as working on improving existing therapies.

Professor Parkes trained in medicine and oncology at Queen’s University, Belfast. She joined Oxford in 2019 as Consultant in Medical Oncology and Clinical Career Development Fellow, and has established a translational lab studying the tumour microenvironment of aggressive cancers in order to develop better cancer therapeutics. She is the holder of a prestigious Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Career Development Fellowship. Her clinical expertise is in oesophagogastric cancer and early-phase trials of novel immunotherapies.

Professor Parkes takes over from Sarah Blagden, Professor of Experimental Oncology in the Department of Oncology, who has been Oxford ECMC lead for the past six years. Commenting on the news, Sarah said:

 ‘With Eileen’s expertise in phase I trials, immuno-oncology, genomics and translational medicine, she is the perfect person to lead Oxford ECMC into the next quinquennium. I have really enjoyed leading the ECMC over the past 6 years and delighted that I can pass the baton to such a talented successor.’

Eileen added “Investment from ECMC has enabled the development of the translational histopathology and data integration panel, with digital pathology analysis becoming an integrative part of novel trials. Additionally, this funding has supported cementing of established partnerships with PPI (patient and public involvement) groups in Oxford to inform trial design, implementation and prioritisation. Together with the ECMC network we continue to work collaboratively to promote the UK’s early phase trials network on the global stage.”

Professor Mark Middleton, clinical director at Oxford Cancer, said: 

Oxford is fortunate to host excellent cancer researchers and inspiring leaders like Professors Blagden and Parkes. Professor Blagden’s stewardship has allowed Oxford to develop leading research in early cancer detection and precision prevention of cancer. I am confident that under Professor Parkes’ leadership the Oxford Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre will continue to thrive and grow in standing within the wider ECMC Network in this vital field.”

Read more about the centre on the Oxford ECMC website.  

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