Belfast gets £1.3m boost for pioneering cancer research

Friday, 19 May 2017 - 9:00am
Belfast gets £1.3m boost for pioneering cancer research

Belfast doctors, nurses and scientists are set to receive a major cash boost for pioneering research into cancer. 

Leading charity Cancer Research UK and the HSC Research and Development Division of the Public Health Agency (HSC R&D) plan to jointly invest around £1.3 million over the next five years in ground-breaking work at the Belfast Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC).

This grant will allow Belfast clinicians and scientists to continue their work in experimental cancer medicine which has been funded from April 2007. This includes innovative phase I and II clinical trials of new drugs, radiotherapy, and surgery and scientific research into biomarkers which allow us to personalise treatments for each patient to improve outcomes and to reduce side-effects. It also allows us to develop the ideas for future cancer treatments by laboratory research linked to the clinic.

The Belfast ECMC is based at the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre at the Belfast City Hospital and in the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s University Belfast. Our ECMC gives people with cancer access to cutting-edge treatments by testing new ways of detecting and monitoring the disease and how it responds to treatment through early phase clinical trials.

Belfast has been chosen by an international panel of experts as one of just 18 locations in the UK to secure funding in the latest review of the ECMCs network. 

Professor Richard Wilson, Belfast ECMC joint lead, said: “We are very proud that Belfast has been awarded ECMC status again. Over the next five years, we will increase the number of clinical trials and translational research studies we’re running and this investment means we will be able to continue our work developing new cancer therapies. We will take our discoveries from the laboratory into clinical trials in patients and will learn as much as possible from our patients in these trials to initiate further research. This is translational research - from the bench to the bedside and back again - and it is the foundation of our high quality cancer research programmes.

“This award represents a critical investment in the research infrastructure in Belfast, equipping us with the key laboratory and clinical tools needed to advance the understanding and treatment of cancer for the benefit of people throughout Northern Ireland and beyond.

The ECMCs aim to bring better treatments to cancer patients in the UK faster through both the adult and children’s network of Centres. They are hubs where promising cancer treatments - including small molecule drugs, surgery, immunotherapy, and vaccines - are safely tested through clinical trials.”

Professor Ian Young, Chief Scientific Advisor, Department of Health (Northern Ireland) and Director of Health and Social Care R&D said: “This investment provides vital support to the world-leading researchers in the Northern Ireland ECMC who are driving the discovery, development and testing of new cancer treatments for patients.”

Every year, around 9,073 people are diagnosed with cancer in Northern Ireland and around 4,180 people die of the disease.

Jean Walsh, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Northern Ireland, said: “This crucial investment is recognition of the fantastic research taking place in Belfast.

One in two of us will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in our lives - so it’s reassuring to know that, thanks to our supporters, Cancer Research UK is able to fund some of the best and most promising research here in Belfast, to help more people survive.

“Survival has doubled since the early 1970s and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress – but every step our doctors, nurses and scientists take relies on donations from the public and the tireless fundraising of our supporters.”

For more information, visit www.cancerresearchuk.org