Doctors on the front line

RESEARCH director Graham Currie joined the Marie Curie Research Institute in Oxted in 1983 - at a time, he says, when scientists were just beginning to understand what goes wrong in cancer at the molecular level.

"Our aim at that time was to use modern technology to look at malignancy, and since then we have gone from strength to strength."

The institute now has 70 staff, 60 of whom are doing science and many of whom are visiting from abroad - from Russia, Japan, China, Hungary and other European countries. The institute also publishes the respected scientific journal Oncogene which is, Dr Currie says, the primary cancer research journal cited most often by other researchers in their papers.

As well as the day-to-day research projects being carried out on site, the institute has become renowned for its busy programme of workshops, to which scientists from all over the world are invited.

Dr Currie says: "We target groups of people who are interested in what we are interested in and this helps to keep us up to date with what is going on around the world."

To accommodate the workshops, the institute has recently invested in construction of a lecture hall and rooms for visitors. Dr Currie says: "We have no problem in getting people to attend - quite the reverse. The setting is beautiful, particularly in the summer - and Americans love it."

Dr Currie describes much of the institute's work as "curiosity-driven, sharp-end science".

But, he adds: "At the back of our minds, we are always aware that the reason we are doing it is to try to apply this knowledge to the problems of people with cancer."