Newcastle MP dons lab coat to learn how research saves lives

Catherine McKinnell MP has recently met with Cancer Research UK-funded scientists at Newcastle University to learn about their life-saving work.

The Newcastle North MP witnessed ground-breaking research at the Wolfson Childhood Cancer Research Centre, which is part of the Northern Institute for Cancer Research (NICR) at Newcastle University, where researchers, including those funded by Cancer Research UK, are helping to ensure more children survive the disease.

The Wolfson Childhood Cancer Research Centre is a facility where clinical and research teams from across the city can come together to advance their understanding of how to treat childhood cancers.

The centre has laboratory space for over 100 staff and specialist facilities for tissue culture, cell sorting, bacteriology and microscopy.

During the visit, Catherine learnt about the work that takes place at the centre which focuses on developing less toxic therapies with fewer side-effects, more effective treatment options for youngsters with advanced cancer and those whose illness has returned.

Director of the NICR, Professor Steve Clifford, host for the visit, said:

‘Newcastle is on the frontline in the fight against cancer with hundreds of researchers striving every day to find better, more effective and kinder ways to treat this devastating disease.

‘It was fantastic to be able to showcase some of this work, which is amongst some of the UK’s leading scientific research, and their efforts to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.’

Every year, around 175 young people are diagnosed with cancer in the North East.

Children with cancer in Newcastle are benefiting from research carried out by Cancer Research UK. The charity’s work is wide-ranging, from investigating the causes of children’s cancers and finding new ways to diagnose them, to developing better and kinder treatments that reduce side-effects that can cause problems later in life.

Thanks to the generosity of Cancer Research UK supporters, research is helping to transform the outlook for children with cancer. Today three quarters of children are cured, compared with around a quarter in the 1960s.

A team that benefits from this funding is one led by Professor Clifford, who gave the MP a tour of the facility.

Prof Clifford and his team, based at the Wolfson Childhood Cancer Research Centre, are studying medulloblastoma, the most common aggressive brain tumour in children.

They are looking at patient samples to understand the disease better. They hope to find biomarkers – or molecular ‘fingerprints’ – within tumours that could be used to figure out what kind of treatment a patient should have and how well they are likely to respond to it.

Catherine McKinnell MP said:

‘I know that cancer has a devastating impact on families in Newcastle so it was inspiring to hear about the progress Cancer Research UK is making in the fight against the disease right here on our doorstep.

‘The visit highlighted why it is so important to support the vital research that benefits thousands of people affected by cancer, not just in the North East but across the UK.’

Joanna McGowan, Public Affairs Manager at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘This was a fantastic opportunity for Catherine McKinnell to see the value in investing in research.

‘Half of people diagnosed with cancer now survive, but half is not enough. At Cancer Research UK, we are working to accelerate progress so that 3 in 4 survive cancer by 2034. To achieve our ambition, it is crucial that the Government continues to encourage and support research.

‘Whilst we receive no government funding, political support is vital to ensure our work can continue to lead to ground-breaking discoveries that will benefit patients in the North East and across the UK.’

Last year, Cancer Research UK spent over £4 million on pioneering research in the region.