Charities’ £2m boost for cancer research in city

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RESEARCH in Yorkshire into deadly cancers has been given a dramatic boost with a gift of more than £2m from two charities in the region for world-class work to uncover better ways of using radiation treatment against the disease.

Experts say the scope and potential of cancer research in Leeds has taken a huge step forward with the appointment of leading specialist Professor David Sebag-Montefiore as the first academic chair for clinical oncology and health research at Leeds University’s School of Medicine.

Funding for the role and the new department, based in the Bexley Wing at St James’s Hospital, which is one of the most advanced cancer treatment centres in Europe, includes a £1.3m donation from the Audrey and Stanley Burton Charitable Trust, plus a further £800,000 from the Yorkshire Cancer Centre Appeal.

The seven-strong research team, which will include two senior lecturers, a research physician and a biostatistician, will lead pioneering studies into tailored radiotherapy treatments for cancer patients and investigations into reducing side-effects.

Prof Sebag-Montefiore, whose research focuses radiotherapy on cancers in different parts of the gut, said: “We have some of the best facilities in the country here in Leeds and I am excited by the opportunities to recruit the best researchers and allow this potential to be unlocked and make a real difference to cancer patients.

“The purpose of the research project is to improve the long-term outcome of cancer treatment and also the long-term side-effects. We will be able to offer a more sophisticated, tailored treatment to cancer patients.

“Our research treatment machines are unique and use scans to make sure they are hitting the targets. It is a great strength to have a research capacity because it means we can offer more specific, more cutting-edge treatments.

“We will be at an internationally competitive level and we aim to deliver a world-class treatment.”

Prof Sebag-Montefiore is also involved in “Aristotle”, a national project that tests whether the addition of a drug to standard chemotherapy can improve the long-term outcome for bowel cancer patients.

He added: “Aristotle is a good example of how patients taking part in research now will shape treatments in 10 or 15 years’ time.

“There is a year-on-year improvement in survival rates for bowel cancer and advances in cancer research are achieved in multiple steps.”

Councillor Bernard Atha, who chairs the Leeds Charitable Foundation and the Yorkshire Cancer Centre Appeal, said the award was the latest charitable investment in the cancer centre.

“This initiative will make a real difference to the lives of patients here in Yorkshire as well as significantly enhancing the quality and reputation of research here in Leeds nationally and internationally,” he said.

“I hope this generosity will trigger similar support for the charity, which can make such a difference to the lives of future patients.”