Big C, Norfolk’s Cancer Charity, has pledged a contribution of £250,000 to help build a brand new medical research facility as part of Norwich Research Park, to be called the Norwich Medical Research Building, and located immediately next to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. The facility will focus on finding new treatments for many diseases that affect an ageing population, including cancer.
Over a quarter of Norfolk’s population of 849,400 is of a pensionable age. Norfolk is one of the UK’s oldest counties. So diseases affecting an ageing population will naturally be more prevalent. The facility will focus its world-class research into cancer, antibiotic resistant disease, musculo-skeletal disease and gastro-intestinal diseases.
The building will cost around £19million and will be managed by the University of East Anglia. Hospital clinicians will work alongside researchers, focusing on all people newly diagnosed with cancer at NNUH and JPUH, meaning it will be possible to carry out translational research; which is translating research based on real life patients into trials and treatments.
Big C funded scientist, Colin Cooper, will be one of the Professors leading the team of researchers that will be looking into cancer. They will focus on the four main cancer sites – prostate, breast, gastro and lung. Each patient being treated at NNUH will be invited to have a biopsy taken that will be used in research. After an initial research phase it may be possible for doctors to advise regarding the best forms of treatment according to each patient’s cancer. Biopsies containing cancer cells will be stored in a state of the art bio-bank, constructed within the building, that will allow storage of up a million samples. Hosting research on bone, muscle and infection in addition to cancer, the building will represent a melting pot of innovative research that will draw on expertise in many areas for the benefit of cancer patients.
Colin Cooper says:
“Over the past few years there has been a revolution in the way that our genetic material or DNA can be examined. New technologies and approaches, carried out Internationally, are proving remarkable insights into how individual cancers develop and how they may be targeted by drugs. In Norwich we have worked out ways to use this information for patients benefit, particularly for prostate cancer but also for other major cancers including breast, lung and gastrointestinal cancer. Within 2-3 years we hope to use these new approaches to improve survival by personalising cancer treatment."
The new Norwich Medical Research Building will join the Norwich Research Park, a group of world-class facilities that together have been ranked fourth in the UK for the number of most highly cited scientists – after London, Cambridge and Oxford. The proximity to the other faculties means there will be easy synergy between them, ideas can be shared, results compared and knowledge bounced. To aid this knowledge sharing, the new building will have contemporary socialising and informal networking areas, as well as various teaching areas. This will also allow these spaces to move from the main hospital building, which will also create more space within the hospital.
For Big C, this is a big jump in terms of the kind of research that has historically been funded. Until this, Big C has primarily focused on small, starter projects, many going on to bigger projects. This is with the exception of the larger funding of two professors - Professor Colin Cooper and Professor Dylan Edwards, who is Big C Chair of Cancer Studies. Big C has funded many projects that have revealed exciting results but have been too small for larger charities to consider. However, translational research is the next step towards finding medicines for different types of cancer. It will allow results to be taken to the next level and clinical trials to go ahead.
Norfolk is also the perfect county to create a facility such as this because of the population size, age and the fact it’s reasonably stable.
Lynne Ainge from South Norfolk, battled breast cancer between 2009 and 2010. She was treated at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and used the Big C Centre in Norwich for support during her treatment. She was invited by Big C to visit the labs at UEA, was taken on a tour and was told about all the various research into cancer, funded by Big C and other charities at the labs. She says:
“Knowing research into new treatments and medicines is going on really helped me through my treatment. It gave me hope knowing there are new medicines on the horizon and better outcomes for people.”
Nikki Morris, Big C’s Head of Clinical Services, is proud to be involved in the next big jump for Big C. She says:
“I am delighted in the instrumental role that Big C is taking in supporting the new translational research facility here in Norwich. Research has always been at the heart of what we do and the opportunity to take the agenda forward in this way is one that we would not have missed. The difference this will make in extending knowledge, understanding and practical applications of research findings will be significant in our mission to work to improve peoples health and wellbeing. This resource will keep Norwich at the forefront of international research excellence with the benefit that the skills and expertise it attracts will enrich the wider scientific health community in Norfolk. Big C are very grateful to all our supporters who have so generously given to us over the years for making this possible – improving the lives of those affected by cancer both now and in the future.