Cancer victims welcome £138m research centre

thisisoxfordshire: Prof Gillies McKenna Prof Gillies McKenna

CANCER sufferers have welcomed the announ-cement of a £138m centre in Oxford to help fight the disease.

The centre is due to be built near the Churchill Hospital and will see Oxford leading the world in treatments for early-cancer patients.

It could be completed in three years after Chancellor George Osborne told the Tory Party Conference this week he was ready to put millions into the scheme, seen as pivotal in the battle against cancer.

The announcement has been welcomed by Oxfordshire organisations that deal with cancer sufferers.

Dave Beesley, the chairman of the Oxfordshire Prostate Cancer Support Group, was diagnosed with prostate cancer more than a year ago.

He has since been given the encouraging news that signs of his cancer are gone, and thought the new centre was great news for patients.

He said: “It’s absolutely brilliant news, what more can you say.

“From my point of view, I certainly had the best treatment I could possibly have had here in Oxford.

“What would be great is if there was a space in the centre which could be used for a support group such as ours, so we could offer help alongside the treatments.”

The bid for the centre was only submitted to the Government two months ago by a consortium including Oxford University, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust and Cancer Research UK.

The new Oxford centre will focus on new treatments, diagnosis, imaging and therapy.

Prof Gillies McKenna, who will lead the new centre, said: “Potential new cancer drugs have traditionally been first tried out on patients with end-stage disease and results are often disappointing.

“Even when responses are seen, the responses are often quite brief. This will be a fully-comprehensive cancer centre for research involving patients with early stage cancer.”

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The university revealed that a new drugs research centre costing £32m is also to be created, focusing on developing drugs for cancer, heart disease and other conditions.

Work to find a suitable site for the cancer centre on the Churchill site or nearby is now under way.

Sir Jonathan Michael, chief executive of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “It is an exciting opportunity for our clinicians to work with Oxford University research-ers with the aim of establishing a world-leading centre for targeted cancer research involving patients with early- stage cancer.”

Prof McKenna, of Oxford University’s Oncology Dep-artment, said local patients would benefit from the huge investment.

He said: “We want to look at how new drug candidates might be combined with the latest surgery or radiotherapy techniques, still the mainstays of curative cancer treatment.

“We also want to develop new ways for imaging cancer so that imaging can be used to select and monitor treatment, to be able to tell very quickly whether the right treatment has been selected.”

The speed of developments is in stark contrast to the £109m cancer centre at the Churchill.

That only opened in 2009 after years of fundraising to finally get cancer patients out of shabby rooms with leaking roofs.

However, after the Chancellor announced his backing, it quickly emerged that to qualify for Government money, Oxford University has had to raise two thirds of the funding itself – bringing in tens of millions in a matter of months.

Funding for the main centre has come from a consortium that includes Synergy Health, Roche Diagnostics and GE Healthcare.

A separate partnership formed to create the smaller centre includes leading drugs companies, including Janssen Pharmaceutica NV.

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