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£1 million investment set to boost Northern Ireland cancer research

cancerCancer patients in Northern Ireland are set to benefit from a landmark investment of nearly £1 million in cancer research from a leading local cancer charity, it was announced today.

Friends of the Cancer Centre, which is based at the heart of the Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital, has partnered with the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) at Queen’s University Belfast to provide a £900,000 funding injection for research into clinical trials – medical research trials involving patients – over the next three years.

The investment, which will be delivered through an annual grant of £300,000 over a three year period, will allow the CCRCB to increase the clinical capacity of the specialist team that plans and delivers clinical trials, through a number of critical new staff posts.

This increased capacity of the clinical trials research team will allow for further research and development of world leading cancer trials, an increase in patient recruitment numbers by consultants and clinical academics within the Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital and ultimately improved outcomes for cancer patients.

Colleen Shaw, chief executive of Friends of the Cancer Centre, said: “This is not a donation in our eyes; this is a financial investment in the future of local cancer research and in the future of cancer care in Northern Ireland.

“Northern Ireland has become a world leader in cancer care and the Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital provides the highest level of treatment available.  Northern Ireland, through the team at CCRCB, has been at the forefront of the drive to find the latest and best ways to treat all kinds of cancer and clinical trials have become a vital weapon in this.   As a charity whose focus is on supporting those affected by cancer, we recognise the potential that lies in clinical trials and the direct benefits they can have on a patient’s life.

“For us, this investment is also hugely important as this is not money that will disappear into the often unseen world of cancer research, as it will directly impact people affected by cancer, here and now.”

The investment will fund a number of vital posts within the clinical trials team, including a clinical research nurse, research radiographer, senior data manager as well as dedicated pharmacy support.  These posts are vital in the development and implementation of clinical trials, as they provide the essential infrastructure to offer a more comprehensive and innovative trial portfolio, as well as more readily available access to trials.

Professor David Waugh, director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB), said: “We cannot emphasis enough how important this funding is.  It permits us to increase the capacity of specialist staff we need to implement these world leading and life changing clinical trials.

“Thanks to the support of Friends of the Cancer Centre, the next three years are set to be a very exciting time for us as we now have the dedicated manpower in the Cancer Centre to conduct these trials that take forward innovative discovery from our research and strive for better outcomes for patients.

“We have been at the forefront of some of the most ambitious and ground breaking research in recent years and some of our own trials have been adopted by leading cancer centres across the UK and Europe.

“We can now continue to drive this transition to become an internationally recognised leader in individualised cancer treatment, with research born in Belfast, led by Belfast.”

Professor Joe O’Sullivan, consultant clinical oncologist at the Cancer Centre and head of the clinical research programme in radiotherapy and prostate cancer at the CCRCB, said: “As a clinical researcher, I am very keen to have a large number of trials available to my patients and it would not be possible to achieve this without the support of Friends of the Cancer Centre.

“From the patient perspective, this investment is also hugely significant.  I see people every day who are faced with a life changing diagnosis and whilst for many the outlook is good with treatment, others need major improvements in our currently available treatment options.

“This is where clinical trials come in.  I have seen first-hand how a trial can impact and often improve a patient’s outlook.  This is very exciting for me as a consultant, especially when the trial is home grown and developed in Belfast, but most importantly this can be life changing and indeed lifesaving for the patient.”

Friends of the Cancer Centre is one of the leading cancer charities in Northern Ireland working to support cancer patients, their families and carers through key projects in the areas of research, patient comfort and care, clinical care and equipment.

In addition to the investment in clinical trials, Friends of the Cancer Centre also supports cancer research through funding a number of other projects, including the Northern Ireland Cancer Trials Centre and the Northern Ireland Biobank.  Over the next three years, Friends of the Cancer centre has committed over £2 million to local cancer research alone.