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Cancer survivors dig for a future with ‘More Tomorrows’

08 Nov 2012

Inspirational cancer survivors took the first step in helping to build a new £28.5million University research building for the Manchester Cancer Research Centre (MCRC) today (Thursday).

Professor Nic Jones (left) with Amber and Stan at the breaking-the-ground event
Professor Nic Jones (left) with Amber and Stan at the breaking-the-ground event

The new facility, which will be one of the largest carrying out research into the disease in Europe, is being funded by Cancer Research UK, The Christie and The University of Manchester. A fundraising campaign, called ‘More Tomorrows’, has been launched to deliver the remaining funding commitment of £16m needed for the new building, which is due for completion in spring 2014, and is being constructed opposite the main site of The Christie and Paterson Institute in Withington.

Stan Parker, aged 73, from Salford, together with nine-year-old Amber Irvine, from Ashton-Under-Lyne, dug the first piece of ground for the foundations of the centre which is set to revolutionise cancer treatment. They were joined at the ‘breaking the ground’ event this morning by the Director of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre, Professor Nic Jones, and other representatives from the three partner organisations.

All three MCRC organisations have worked closely together under the umbrella of ‘Manchester Cancer Research Centre’ since 2006, but the new building will provide an opportunity for scientists and clinicians to work collaboratively under the same roof.

Amber Irvine, who has three sisters, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 2009. Her mum Samantha, aged 26, had become concerned after Amber started school and was continually exhausted. Amber was even so tired on one occasion she fell asleep in the pool at a swimming lesson.

It was initially thought Amber had a virus, but when she was eventually diagnosed with leukaemia doctors warned Samantha that her daughter’s blood count had been so low that had she not been admitted to hospital, she would have died within the next 24 hours.

Amber started an immediate course of chemotherapy treatment while her family was living in Lincolnshire, but they moved to the North West to be close to Samantha’s mother shortly afterwards. Amber completed her two and a half years of treatment at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

Despite Amber being repeatedly admitted to hospital with infections, and having to face losing her hair twice, she has made a good recovery and has now been in the clear from cancer for 12 months. The Broad Oak Primary School pupil still needs check-ups every six weeks.

Mum Samantha said: “A cancer diagnosis is a huge shock for anyone, but is devastating for a child and their family.

“We have faced some very tough times over the past few years, but Amber has remained brave throughout the many hospital appointments.

“Amber is so thrilled to be breaking the ground for the new cancer research building, as it’s such an honour.

“It is fantastic to know Amber is playing a small part in helping to create a building which is going to save future generations affected by cancer – a disease which has had such an impact on our lives.”

Stan Parker was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in 2004. He underwent an “oesophagectomy” which involved most of his oesophagus being removed.

The following year, when Stan was still recovering from the surgery, the cancer spread to his liver.

Stan, who is aged 73, underwent intensive chemotherapy treatment at The Christie.

When it was suggested Stan should consider joining a clinical trial, his wife Judy urged him to sign-up immediately.

Sadly, Judy, died suddenly from a heart attack when Stan was receiving the first part of treatment on the clinical trial.

The trial has involved testing a drug called “tremelimumab” for cancers of the food pipe and stomach.

Tremelimumab is a type of monoclonal antibody drug which works by triggering the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells.

Doctors have been testing whether it would be useful for cancer that had started to grow again.

Stan joined the clinical trial in 2006 and is still on the same trial now six years later.

He said: “I sometimes feel like I am tempting fate by telling people about what has happened to me!

“But I certainly didn’t expect to still be alive six years later and feeling so well.

“It is such a shame Judy my wife didn’t get to see the impact of the clinical trial on my life as she was so pivotal in encouraging me to sign up for it in the first place.

“I have received the most fantastic cancer treatment here in Manchester. It makes me incredibly proud to know that Manchester Cancer Research Centre researchers will be on my doorstep and is going to make such a difference for people like me diagnosed with the disease in the future.

“Without the vitally important research into cancer which has happened in this city, I would not be alive today.”

Director of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre, Professor Nic Jones, said: “We are very much in a ‘golden age’ of cancer research, having come a long way in the last 40 years with survival rates driven up by improvements in treatments and early diagnosis.

“However, we still have a long way to go in the fight against the disease. To take our life-saving research to the next level, we need more laboratories and more world-class scientists.

“The new research building will provide an amazing role in hosting world-class cancer biology, drug discovery and clinical trials all on the one spot.

“Providing more lab space, the new building will attract scientists from all over the world enabling us to make more life saving discoveries faster.

“Manchester already has an impressive legacy in cancer research, but the new centre will put the city on the world map for helping to save lives.

“By supporting the fundraising campaign, people in the North West will be giving hope to future generations ensuring more families have ‘More Tomorrows’ with their loved ones.”

In Greater Manchester alone, around 13,200 people are diagnosed with cancer every year – that’s 36 people affected every day.

For more information on the ‘More Tomorrows’ fundraising campaign and the Manchester Cancer Research Centre visit: www.moretomorrows.org

Ends

Notes for editors

About the new cancer research building:

The new building is vital to support ongoing expansion of research activities with tremendous potential for future breakthroughs that improve treatment for cancer patients. It will provide space for around 250 staff and complements existing facilities on the site, promoting collaboration between doctors and scientists to take cancer research from the laboratory to the clinic. The building is expected to be operational in summer 2014.

About Cancer Research UK:

  • Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.
  • The charity’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.
  • Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on every pound donated.
  • Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival rates in the UK double in the last forty years.
  • Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.
  • For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity call 0300 123 1861 or visit www.cancerresearchuk.org

About The University of Manchester:

The University of Manchester, a member of the Russell Group, is one of the largest and most popular universities in the UK. It has 20 academic schools and hundreds of specialist research groups undertaking pioneering multi-disciplinary teaching and research of worldwide significance. According to the results of the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, The University of Manchester is one of the country’s major research institutions, rated third in the UK in terms of ‘research power’. The University had an annual income of £809 million in 2010/11.

About The Christie:

The Christie specialises in cancer treatment, research and education, and is the largest cancer centre in Europe. As well as treating 40,000 patients a year from across the UK, its experts have been pioneering cancer research breakthroughs for more than 100 years. An NHS Foundation Trust with a dedicated charity, 2,500 staff, 350 volunteers and 26,000 public members, The Christie is based in Manchester with radiotherapy centres in Oldham and Salford.

As well as housing the largest single site early phase clinical trials in the world, with around 400 trials taking place at any one time, it became the first UK centre to be officially accredited as a comprehensive cancer centre.The Christie also has its own School of Oncology – the first of its kind– enhancing the education and knowledge of healthcare professionals across the country.

For press enquiries contact:

Jane Bullock
Cancer Research UK

Mob: 07810 505535

Aeron Haworth
The University of Manchester

Mob: 07717 881563

Jenny Fairhurst
The Christie

Mob: 077171 56632