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Cancer charity invests in new clinical trials research unit for Leeds

 February 20, 2019 | Bronte Reilly


Doctors and scientists at Leeds have received a major boost from Cancer Research UK for pioneering work with cancer.

A grant has created the Cancer Research UK Leeds Clinical Trials Unit, which will allow doctors and scientists to continue researching and testing better and kinder treatments for patients.

Cancer Research UK is investing almost £2 million over the next five years in ground-breaking work at the unit, which is based at the University of Leeds Institute of Clinical Trials Research.

This newly-opened unit will focus on two main areas – patients who are treated with radiotherapy or have cancers of the blood – giving them more access to innovative treatments by significantly increasing the number of clinical trials.

It is one of eight Cancer Research UK clinical trials units (CTUs) in the UK. They specialise in the design, delivery and analysis of trials that bring the latest scientific developments to patients across the UK.

Professor Julia Brown, who will lead the new CRUK Leeds Clinical Trials Unit, said: “We are delighted and very proud that Leeds has been given this investment by Cancer Research UK, which will allow us to pursue an ambitious scientific research programme at a much faster rate.

“Our aim is to improve cancer survival rates, and clinical trials are vital to finding new, effective treatments for cancer patients.

“The money from Cancer Research UK is being allocated over the next five years and will build on the strong track record our clinical trials team already has in identifying innovative and effective treatments in radiotherapy, in particular for brain, lung and rectal cancers, and for blood cancers such as myeloma and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.”

Every year approximately 30,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in Yorkshire and the Humber.  Leeds Cancer Centre, one of the largest cancer hospitals in Europe, diagnoses and treats cancer patients from Leeds and the Yorkshire region and has an international reputation for leading and conducting cancer trials.

In addition, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is currently third in England and Wales for the number of patients taking part in all kinds of clinical treatment trials.

The CRUK Leeds Clinical Trials Unit will see a leadership team of around eight people brought together by Professor Brown that will include two leading cancer clinicians at Leeds Cancer Centre, Professors David Sebag-Montefiore and Gordon Cook.

Professor David Sebag-Montefiore, Clinical Director in the University of Leeds CTRU and Clinical Oncologist at Leeds Cancer Centre, said: “This new investment will allow us to design smarter, faster clinical trials across a range of different cancers using new radiotherapy treatments including proton beam therapy and new drug treatments that can be combined with radiotherapy.

“At the moment, radiotherapy is second only to surgery in terms of its effectiveness in treating cancer. Leeds is already recognised for its leadership of clinical trials using radiotherapy and the results have improved the long term success of cancer treatment and led to changes in the best treatment approach for future patients.”

Professor Gordon Cook, Professor of Haematology and Myeloma Studies and Clinical Director in the University of Leeds CTRU, said: “Myeloma is a blood cancer that starts in bone marrow, the spongy tissue found inside the large bones of the body. Around 5,500 people are diagnosed with the disease in the UK each year. It’s painful, causes disability and is incurable.

“Leeds has been the central hub for clinical trials in myeloma and now is developing newer trials techniques to gain even more progress. There has been real improvement in the number of people who are living longer with myeloma as a result of successive investigative studies that have been undertaken by the Leeds clinical trials team, which have changed the way the disease is treated, both in the UK and internationally.

Across the UK, the Cancer Research UK clinical trials units aim to bring better treatments to cancer patients in the UK faster through both adult and children’s networks.

This funding follows a major review by the charity of all its CTUs. This resulted in £45 million being invested into eight units across the UK, including the new one in Leeds, and is one of the charity’s largest investments in clinical research to date.

Nicki Embleton, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Leeds, said: “This crucial investment recognises the fantastic research taking place in Leeds. It ensures researchers can take full advantage of our most promising scientific discoveries and translate them into new tests and treatments for patients.

“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 Leeds, to help more people survive.

Learn more about Cancer research at Leeds here.

Cancer charity invests in new clinical trials research unit for Leeds