A year of achievement for The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation

Lady Elsie and Professor Colin Rees at launch of the new COLO-SPEED bowel cancer research project

As the decade draws to a close, Lady Elsie has been reflecting on 10 years of clinical drug trials in the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre and looking back on a year of significant achievements for her husband’s charity – including a ‘first’ in childhood cancer research.

Lady Elsie says: “This has been a very special year for our Foundation and I know Bob would be very proud of everything we’ve achieved together. We’ve done a lot of good in the last decade and Bob would be the first person telling us to keep at it. We’ve backed some important bowel cancer research this year and were very pleased to see a breakthrough in one of the most common childhood cancers as a result of specialist equipment our Foundation funded.

“That all of this ground-breaking research is happening here in the North East, within our wonderful NHS, and with the fantastic support of local cancer patients, is a source of pride for me and my family. I hope it is for every one of our supporters, too. I’d like to thank everyone who has helped us and I hope next year brings even further progress into finding better ways to treat cancer.”

In February this year, Sir Bobby’s family were joined by staff and patients to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care (Freeman Hospital) in Newcastle.

Now one of the most active cancer clinical trials units in the UK, the Sir Bobby Robson Centre offers patients from across the North East and Cumbria access to early drug trials and potential new treatments, including immunotherapy drugs that are proving very effective for some cancers that would otherwise be extremely difficult to treat.

The Foundation also funds training posts for a specialist clinical trials doctor and nurse within the centre, which is busier than ever and now sees around 300 new patients every year, all helping to improve the treatment and diagnosis of cancer and study the effects of new drugs for the benefit of this generation and generations to come.

In June, a ground-breaking £985,000 cancer research and treatment project was announced by the Foundation, which aims to reverse the region’s high incidence and low survival rates of bowel cancer (also called colorectal cancer).

The Colorectal Cancer Screening Prevention Endoscopy and Early Diagnosis project, or COLO-SPEED, is enabling 17 regional NHS endoscopy units - from Whitehaven to Sunderland, and Northallerton to Cramlington - to recruit up to 5,000 patients a year to help speed up research into the disease.

And in October, Newcastle University announced they had made a breakthrough in understanding neuroblastoma, one of the most common forms of childhood cancer, using specialist equipment funded by the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation six years ago.

The research equipment, an ImageStream Imaging Flow Cytometer, was funded in 2013 with a grant of £438,000 and allows scientists to see cancer cells that may be circulating in a patient’s blood.

It has proved crucial for experts researching neuroblastoma, a rare type of cancer of the nervous system that mainly affects babies and young children.

The study, led by Newcastle University and published in Clinical Cancer Research, focussed on neuroblastoma cells which circulate in the blood and spread through the bone marrow.

It is the first time that circulating neuroblastoma tumour cells have been identified in this way and it will now be possible to test the effect of newer targeted types of treatments on the circulating tumour cells without the need for an invasive biopsy.

Sir Bobby Robson launched his Foundation in 2008 and it has gone on to raise over £13.5 million to find more effective ways to detect and treat cancer by working within the NHS and in partnership with other leading charities and organisations.

The work funded directly benefits cancer patients in the North East and Cumbria and plays a significant role in the international fight against the disease - funding cutting-edge cancer treatment and innovative cancer support services.

As a fund within the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Charity, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation does not employ professional fundraisers to proactively raise money, and relies completely on third party, volunteer fundraisers and the incredible generosity of the general public.

Sir Bobby described his charity as his, “last and greatest team.” He had no idea how large his team would grow, or how much it would go on to achieve.

For more information, please visit www.sirbobbyrobsonfoundation.org.uk.

Lady Elsie and Professor Ruth Plummer (with cake) - Director of the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre - at the 10th anniversary of the centre

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