Liverpool among new breed of super cancer centres

Cancer Research UK

Liverpool will today (Wednesday) become one of the first links in a unique chain of Cancer Research UK Centres to be launched round the country.

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

As one of the first Cancer Research UK Centres, Liverpool will set the pace for national and international progress in cancer of the pancreas, head and neck and blood. It will also concentrate on pioneering the latest techniques in surgery, radiotherapy and the treatment of children's cancers.

Collaboration is the key to the success of the Centre which will focus on a better understanding of how cancers start and behave, how to develop better treatments with fewer side effects and how to tackle cancer in low-income communities where survival is lowest.

Cancer Research UK already supports research in Liverpool but is set to increase its contribution to around £3m a year to help develop the Centre.

Professor John Neoptolemos, who is a surgeon at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, head of the University of Liverpool's cancer studies and chair of the Centre's board, said: "Cancer Research UK has managed to bring together a variety of eminent researchers and clinicians to collaborate and work together to improve the lives and extend the survival of Merseyside's cancer patients.

"This area of the country has poor survival in a number of cancers. By launching this project the charity has attracted an impressive field of expertise to benefit the people of Liverpool.

"One of Cancer Research UK’s goals is to invest more money in treating patients who have what we call the "neglected" cancers where survival is poor such as pancreatic cancer. This work will be happening on your doorstep in Liverpool and you will see the benefits in survival.

The Centre aims to be a world leader in developing treatments tailored to individual cancer patients based on understanding the biology of the disease and how that varies among patients. It brings together the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, Clatterbridge Centre of Oncology NHS Trust, University of Liverpool, the City Council and the Merseyside and Cheshire Cancer Task Force.

Helen Yorke, 48, is one of Professor Neoptolemos's success stories. After surgery for pancreatic cancer in August 2007 Helen had the opportunity to take part in a chemotherapy trial being run in Liverpool. Now just 18 months later Helen is feeling great and is back at work as a data entry specialist.

"When I had the chance to go on the trial I was apprehensive," said Helen who is married with two sons and lives in Lowton. "A third of the patients were to have no chemotherapy, a third to have the standard chemo and the rest were to have a new kind. To start with I half hoped the computer would allocate me to have none but I was given the chance to have the new treatment and now I am so glad I did.

"I was born in Liverpool and my life was saved in Liverpool. Everyone involved in my treatment has been absolutely fantastic. I think I’m one of their star patients."

Tony Bell, chief executive of the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, said: "This centre puts Liverpool and its strength in research and pioneering healthcare firmly on the map. As a regional cancer centre, we have some of the country’s best medical expertise at our fingertips. This centre ensures that they - along with the people of Liverpool - are at the cutting edge of research and the development of new tests and treatments for cancer."

Darren Hurrell, chief executive of Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology NHS foundation trust, said: "Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology is committed to the development of world-class cancer services and we believe working in partnership will enable us to provide the best possible results for cancer patients.

"Cancer Research UK's Liverpool Centre will provide medical experts with the facility to carry out pioneering research that will enable them to increase their understanding of cancers and research better treatments with fewer side effects.

"This is one of the first Cancer Research UK Centres and we are delighted to be involved for the simple reason that it will bring huge benefits to patients, and patient care is at the heart of everything we do."

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. But we continue to welcome the generous donations we receive from the public to ensure we can continue to build on what we have started today."

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

Ends

For media enquiries please call the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 7061 8300, or the out of hours' duty press officer on 07050 264059.

Notes to Editor

Latest figures show that around 7,600 cases of pancreatic cancer are diagnosed each year. Only between two and three per cent survive for five years. In the Merseyside and Cheshire area around 260 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year.

Other contributors to the Centre include Merseyside and Cheshire Cancer Research Network,Liverpool City Council and other local hospitals.

Cancer Research UK Centres aim to establish a nationwide network of excellence that will provide the best possible outcomes for patients by linking research activity with patient care and public engagement. Each Centre will focus on specific areas of research and aim to raise standards of care and forge links with local communities.