As the decade draws to a close, Lady Elsie has been reflecting on 10 years of clinical drug trials in the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre and looking back on a year of significant achievements for our charity – including a ‘first’ in childhood cancer research.

Lady Elsie says: “This has been a very special year for our Foundation and I know Bob would be very proud of everything we’ve achieved together.

“We’ve done a lot of good in the last decade and Bob would be the first person telling us to keep at it. We’ve backed some important bowel cancer research this year and were very pleased to see a breakthrough in one of the most common childhood cancers as a result of specialist equipment our Foundation funded.

“That all of this ground-breaking research is happening here in the North East, within our wonderful NHS, and with the fantastic support of local cancer patients, is a source of pride for me and my family. I hope it is for every one of our supporters, too.

“I’d like to thank everyone who has helped us and I hope next year brings even further progress into finding better ways to treat cancer.”

In February this year, Sir Bobby’s family were joined by staff and patients to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care (Freeman Hospital) in Newcastle.

Now one of the most active cancer clinical trials units in the UK, the Sir Bobby Robson Centre offers patients from across the North East and Cumbria access to early drug trials and potential new treatments, including immunotherapy drugs that are proving very effective for some cancers that would otherwise be extremely difficult to treat.

We also fund training posts for a specialist clinical trials doctor and nurse within the centre, which is busier than ever and now sees around 300 new patients every year, all helping to improve the treatment and diagnosis of cancer and study the effects of new drugs for the benefit of this generation and generations to come.

In June, we announced a ground-breaking £985,000 cancer research and treatment project, which aims to reverse the region’s high incidence and low survival rates of bowel cancer (also called colorectal cancer).

The Colorectal Cancer Screening Prevention Endoscopy and Early Diagnosis project, or COLO-SPEED, is enabling 17 regional NHS endoscopy units – from Whitehaven to Sunderland, and Northallerton to Cramlington – to recruit up to 5,000 patients a year to help speed up research into the disease.

And in October, Newcastle University announced they had made a breakthrough in understanding neuroblastoma, one of the most common forms of childhood cancer, using specialist equipment funded by our Foundation six years ago.

The research equipment, an ImageStream Imaging Flow Cytometer, was funded in 2013 with a grant of £438,000 and allows scientists to see cancer cells that may be circulating in a patient’s blood.

It has proved crucial for experts researching neuroblastoma, a rare type of cancer of the nervous system that mainly affects babies and young children.

The study, led by Newcastle University and published in Clinical Cancer Research, focussed on neuroblastoma cells which circulate in the blood and spread through the bone marrow.

It is the first time that circulating neuroblastoma tumour cells have been identified in this way and it will now be possible to test the effect of newer targeted types of treatments on the circulating tumour cells without the need for an invasive biopsy.

Sir Bobby described his charity as his, “last and greatest team.” He had no idea how large his team would grow, or how much it would go on to achieve.

Thank you all for your wonderful support and we hope you have a very happy New Year!