Clinical trials of new cancer treatments are at the heart of our Foundation and, every year, progress is made testing new drugs at the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre (at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care, Freeman Hospital, Newcastle).

Lady Elsie and the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation Clinical Trials Design Team (taken before social distancing)

Now we are funding a new team based in Newcastle and working closely with NHS Trusts across the across the north of England to develop even more cancer research projects

The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation Clinical Trials Design Team, funded by a £433,838 grant, will help answer important questions about cancer by ensuring research is designed in the best way possible.

Based at Newcastle University, the new team works with cancer researchers – the clinicians and scientists known as ‘investigators’ – to design and develop new trials. The findings of these trials will not only benefit patients with cancer in this region, but also nationally and internationally.

The Newcastle Clinical Trials Unit (CTU) is where trials are developed and managed, as opposed to delivered to patients, which is the role of the Sir Bobby Robson Centre.

James Wason, Professor of Biostatistics at Newcastle University, and Rebecca Maier, Deputy Lead of the Newcastle CTU are Project Leads on the new ‘Sir Bobby team.’

Professor Wason says: “People have questions they want to answer for patients and, if you have a good research question, then you then need to answer it using strong and suitable methods.

“That’s what this team does. Our role is to develop and advise on clinical research trial design before proposals go forward for potential funding. We help to make sure the trial will answer the research question with high-quality information, and can be delivered successfully.”

Working alongside the Department of Health funded Research Design Service North East and Cumbria and the Newcastle CTU, the ‘Sir Bobby team’ focuses solely on cancer and is already working with clinicians and researchers from across the region.

The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation Clinical Trials Design Team are working to develop trials across a broad range of cancer research topics and collaborate with investigators to seek industry and government funding for these.

In addition to the many possibilities for future cancer research, the team will expand and build on research studies already underway, including avoiding side effects for breast cancer patients and prevention of bowel cancer. There are also plans for a prostate cancer research project.

Rebecca Maier, Deputy Lead of the Newcastle CTU, adds: “By working together, we can build strong trials and robust research. Each team member has different expertise and we bring that to our meetings.

“It makes a huge difference to patients because, if you don’t design a trial well, you won’t be able to get the answers to important research questions. We want all patients to get the best possible treatment, and we know how important having high quality research is for this, so we have to get it right.

“This funding has given us more time to focus on cancer trials, especially early experimental trials within this region. We’re so privileged to have the funds for this and very grateful to everyone who has supported the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and helped make this possible.”

Professor Ruth Plummer, Director of the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre, a trustee of our Foundation and a Professor of Experimental Cancer Medicine at Newcastle University, says: “When you’re trying to answer the more complex questions you need a research design team to help develop the trials and to work with the clinical trials team who treat the patients. This provides robust oversight as we deliver the trial.

“All our studies are carefully designed and managed and working together means we can design and deliver new trials in Newcastle, for the benefit of the whole region and beyond, in the very best way possible.

“It’s that ‘piece of the jigsaw’ that we didn’t have before and we have a lot of ideas about projects that came from our experiences with patients being treated in the Sir Bobby Robson Centre.

“At the Sir Bobby Centre we’re also working very closely with colleagues in the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and receiving fantastic support at our clinical hub at The Endeavour Unit (the radiotherapy centre at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough).

“That’s making a big difference and this really is the sort of team effort Sir Bobby hoped his Foundation would enable.”

The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation Clinical Trials Design Team:

Rebecca Maier – Deputy Lead of CTU (Project Lead)
James Wason – Professor of Biostatistics (Project Lead)
Helen Hancock – Director of CTU
Natasha Newell – Design Team Methodologist
Svetlana Cherlin – Design Team Biostatistician
Mark Walker – Director of CRF