Belfast cancer facility 'will boost research and patient outcomes'

In collaboration with the Press Association

A new cancer research and treatment facility in Belfast is being tipped to improve outcomes for thousands of people with the disease.

The integrated laboratory, the first of its kind across the UK and Ireland, is based at Queen's University Belfast.

It is the result of a partnership between Queen's Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.

Professor Nic Jones, Cancer Research UK's chief scientist, has welcomed the new facility, saying: "This unique resource provides an example to the world by bringing together scientists, doctors and patients to make targeted treatments available sooner for cancer patients in Northern Ireland."

The Northern Ireland Molecular Pathology Lab (NI-MPL) and Northern Ireland Biobank (NIB) can improve the diagnosis of cancer thanks to the analysis of tumour samples at a molecular level.

It is being hailed as the chance to usher in an exciting era of personalised treatments in Northern Ireland by providing new insight into the unique characteristics of each patient's condition.

Professor Manuel Salto-Tellez, Professor of Molecular Pathology at Queen's and lead researcher within NI-MPL, said testing at a molecular level will identify changes taking place within each cancer's unique genetic make-up.

Professor Joe O'Sullivan, Professor of Radiation Oncology said that his new amount of detail presented to doctors "will improve outcomes for patients" by prompting more individualised therapies.

And the new integrated hub carries a twin benefit, as not only will it enable more individually tailored treatments but it can also help to drive new advances in cancer research.

The creation of the new NIB is key to this, as it enables researchers to more efficiently access human tissue and blood samples within a robust framework.

They will then be able to cascade that knowledge to the benefit of fellow researchers around the world.

High-quality clinical material and pathological information is vital for the production of meaningful research, explained NIB Scientific Director Jackie James: "The NIB provides all of this within a timely and strict ethical framework."

Professor Nic Jones highlighted Cancer Research UK's pivotal role in setting up the NIB.

He said that Cancer Research UK has provided support to the team of scientists "who have expertise in using this essential tissue resource to understand how to classify patients into groups so that they can receive the most effective treatment targeted to the faults in their DNA".

The development also reduces the possibility of patients receiving unnecessary treatment with difficult side effects, he continued.

"We believe that nurturing world-class research in Northern Ireland will accelerate progress in research leading to increased survival from the disease," added Professor Jones.

Copyright Press Association 2013