Cancer Research UK is investing £15m in its research hubs in Oxford, Cambridge and Manchester.
The three sites form the charity's first centres tasked with making advances in personalised cancer medicine and early detection research.
Dr Iain Foulkes, executive director for research funding, said: "With these centres the UK goes from strength to strength in supporting the best cancer research in the world."
The centres will receive £5m each.
The new research intends to bridge the gap between laboratory work and the eventual benefits for patients.
Oxford research will focus on less invasive treatments, Cambridge on improving early detection and treatment, and Manchester on personalising surgery and radiotherapy.
Prof Richard Gilbertson, director of the Cambridge Centre, described its new status as a "tremendous honour and exciting opportunity".
Cancer Research UK currently has 15 research centres around the UK.