The target of raising £25m for a new world-leading Centre for Cancer Immunology at Southampton is well on track, having already reached the halfway point. During a celebratory event at Somerset House, held on June 23 to mark the official launch of the campaign, it was announced that £13.4m has already been raised.
Guests at the event heard about the importance of the Centre from a prestigious panel of medical experts, including Professor Peter Johnson, Professor of Medical Oncology at University of Southampton and Chief Clinician of Cancer Research UK, and Dr Mark Porter, Medical Correspondent for The Times and resident doctor on The One Show and presenter of Radio 4’s Inside Health. Peter and Mark spoke about therapies that mobilise our own immune system to recognise and attack cancers, which are being heralded as a tipping point in cancer treatment and are showing greater success than traditional treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
More and more evidence is showing that the body’s immune system has enormous potential to fight cancer and to extend peoples’ lives. Recent results from large clinical trials are showing that researchers are entering a new era of cancer treatment. With immunotherapy, an estimated 20 per cent of Southampton’s clinical trial patients with difficult and terminal cancers are now living cancer-free, while as many as half are showing dramatic improvements.
One such is Julie Davies. Julie told guests at the Somerset House event about her life-changing experience after being diagnosed with advanced follicular lymphoma (a type of blood cancer) in 2011. Her prognosis with traditional treatments was not promising and she agreed to take part in an immunotherapy trial at Southampton. Following immunotherapy treatment, Julie showed dramatic improvements, enabling her to now live drug-free and return to the activities she loves.
For forty years, the University has been at the forefront of cancer immunology research in Europe and worldwide. The new Centre for Cancer Immunology, the first of its kind in the UK, will build on the University’s unrivalled expertise and pioneering breakthroughs in this area, enabling it to accelerate the development of immunotherapy treatments and deliver cures for cancer more effectively and quickly to patients. The ultimate goal of raising £25m for the Centre has been boosted by the generosity of the Guernsey-based Wilkinson charitable trust in donating £1m. The gift is in recognition of the University’s essential role in translating the work of researchers in the laboratory into directing treatments for people with cancer. Alumnus Chris Bound, senior partner at Collas Grill in Guernsey, brought the University’s research to the attention of the Trust. “The generous gift from Jim Wilkinson and the Wilkinson Charitable Trust will help to further cement the long-standing relationship between the Channel Islands and Southampton medical services in cancer research and treatment,” he said. Professor Don Nutbeam, the University’s vice-chancellor, acknowledged the generosity of the donation and its potential impact, stating that: “the next few years will see great progress in immune therapies for cancer, with the University of Southampton at the very forefront of discovery.”
Thanks to philanthropic gifts and community support, plans for the Centre are already under way. But we need your help to ensure its success. All gifts make a difference. Together we can save more lives from cancer.
To find out more about the campaign and how you can support it, go to www.southampton.ac.uk/youreit