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UCL becomes home to London’s first Cancer Research UK Centre

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by Cancer Research UK | News

14 October 2009

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A new centre is launched in London today (Wednesday), joining a select group of Cancer Research UK Centres across the UK.

These Cancer Centres draw together world class research and areas of medical expertise to provide the best possible results for cancer patients nationwide.

As the first centre to be opened in London, the UCL (University College London) Cancer Research UK Centre will foster world class research into the causes of cancers and why they develop, and use this knowledge to develop new drugs and therapies.

In particular the UCL Centre will focus on the biology and treatment of blood cancers, sarcomas, brain cancer, ovarian cancer, head and neck cancer and lung cancer.

Many of these cancers –particularly lung and brain- are hard to treat successfully and have poor long term survival rates compared to other common cancers.

Collaboration is the key to the success of the Centre which will focus on new treatments such as gene therapy, health behaviours and drug discovery.

Professor David Linch, director of the new UCL Cancer Research UK Centre, said: “By joining the network of Cancer Research UK Centres across the UK we will be able to build on our world class research bringing benefits to patients, doctors and scientists.

“This new centre will strengthen the work we already do in taking new treatments straight from the laboratory to the clinic, bringing real benefits to people with cancer. Our vision is to supply high quality care to all patients by creating research platforms that enable the development of new and innovative therapies.”

Cancer Research UK already supports research at UCL, and at institutes across London, but will increase its contribution by committing almost £1 million a year to the Centre.

The centre aims to be a world leader in developing treatments tailored to individual cancers based on the biology of the disease and how that varies between patients. It brings together researchers and clinicians from UCL and its four partner hospital trusts, known as UCL Partners: University College London Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust, the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust, and Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, as well as the London School of Pharmacy and Cancer Research UK.

The Centre will make small grants available to encourage researchers from different fields, such as mathematicians and physicists, to bring their expertise into the search for new treatments.

Michael Durham, a 57 year old from north London, has first hand experience of how cutting edge research can result in benefits for patients. Five years ago his wife noticed he was losing weight and urged him to visit his doctor who found lumps in his armpits, groin and neck. After being diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) he was one of the first patients in the UK to be offered a new type of treatment – a ‘mini’ bone-marrow stem cell transplant.

He explained: “I was very lucky that being treated at UCLH meant that I could benefit from this new kind of treatment to completely renew my blood and immune system. It is now four years since I’ve finished my treatment and today I feel brilliant. This new centre in London will mean that even more treatments can be developed that will benefit more patients in the future.”

Professor Chris Boshoff, director of UCL’s Cancer Institute and a member of the new Centre’s board, said: “The UCL Cancer Research UK Centre will establish UCL and our partner hospitals as a major centre for cancer research, not just in the UK but across the world. It will result in increased links between leading scientists and clinicians from UCL and hospitals with outstanding international reputations. The Centre will allow us to rapidly integrate fundamental and translational research, to deliver personalised cancer treatment to more patients in the future.”

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “Funding these centres of excellence is one of the charity’s priorities and will enable us to work towards the goals we have set to improve the treatment and survival of cancer patients. We’re able to launch this new centre thanks to the generous donations of our supporters but we need their continued support if we are to build on what we have started today.”

Cancer Research UK plans to launch more centres around the UK during 2009 and 2010.