Cellular Molecular
Pathology Background


Pathology research is critical for many diseases, especially cancer – almost every cancer patient requires a histological or cytological test from pathology for initial diagnosis.

Cellular pathology, the science of understanding disease at the level of tissues and cells within the body, remains crucial to our understanding of cancer. And with the rapidly increasing need for innovative testing to assess prognosis and to support stratified medicine approaches, we’ve seen a revolution in approaches developed to analyse cells at the molecular level.

So there’s real potential for the traditional field of cellular pathology to integrate molecular approaches and to grow as an academic discipline of cellular-molecular pathology.

Challenges in Pathology

Over the past 15 years, research in pathology in the UK has severely declined. This is best illustrated by the substantial decrease in the academic pathology workforce affecting all grades, from Lecturers to Professors.


In 2008, the NCRI set up a short-lived task force in response to reports of impaired progress in the translational research studies due to attrition of academic pathology expertise. Following consultation with many individuals and organisations representing cellular pathologists and the wider research community, the task force generated its report:

» Fostering the role of pathology in research (2009, PDF)

Overall, however, little improvement has occurred in the academic cellular pathology landscape since 2009. There is a rapidly escalating need for innovative testing to assess prognosis and to support stratified medicine approaches. The challenges of integrating new technologies (e.g. molecular and proteomic analyses and digital infrastructure) must be addressed by cellular pathology in the next 5-10 years to meet the needs of patients. This requires a culture of innovation and up-skilling of the cellular pathology workforce.

As a result, in 2015 the NCRI together with the ECMC Pathology Network Group set up the Cellular Molecular Pathology Initiative, known as CM-Path (Cellular Molecular Pathology Initiative).