The Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care was visited today (31 January) by Newcastle United favourite, David Ginola.

One of Kevin Keegan’s legendary ‘Entertainers’ side, David was part of the team who thrilled Tyneside and so very nearly won the title in 1996.

On his return to the city, he was keen to find out more about the work of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the cutting-edge cancer treatment funded through the charity.

Accompanied by Lady Elsie and Professor Ruth Plummer (Director of the Sir Bobby Centre), David visited the clinical trials centre Sir Bobby officially opened in 2009 to find out more about the pioneering cancer drug work there involving patients from across the North East and Cumbria.

The centre was made possible after Sir Bobby launched our Foundation in 2008 to raise the £500,000 needed to equip it. We also fund training posts for a specialist clinical trials doctor and nurse within the centre.

As part of the visit, David also spent time in the Freeman Hospital’s Cardiothoracic centre, meeting staff in cardiology and the children’s heart unit to find out more about the Trust’s pioneering heart services.

David says: “I’m amazed by everything I saw and everything I heard here today.

“I was a big fan and admirer of Sir Bobby Robson. I almost played for him [at Barcelona] and that would have given me great pleasure because I respected him a lot.

“And I’m not surprised to hear about the beginning of the story of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, and all the facilities I saw today and the money raised.

“This is what life should be, you know. When you encounter some troubles and some issues in your life, I think it’s important to have people who invest their life to help others.”

Patients and staff at the Sir Bobby Robson Centre work closely together to improve the treatment and diagnosis of cancer and study the effects of new drugs. Often these are ‘first in human’ trials and the Sir Bobby Centre’s dedicated staff also coordinate trials of drugs at later stages of development.

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

Paul Charlton, aged 63 from Urpeth Grange in County Durham, has prostate cancer and has just started a new trial at the Sir Bobby Robson Centre.

The Newcastle United season ticket holder was thrilled to meet David, saying he was, “One of the best players we’ve ever had. It was like the ball was stuck to his feet.”

Lady Elsie adds: “I was so pleased when I heard about David’s interest in our charity. Bob would have loved telling him all about it and, no doubt, chatting at length about football as well.

“I think the Sir Bobby Robson Centre is marvellous. It’s warm and welcoming, and the people in it, the patients and staff, are all working together to find out more about these new drugs.

“Bob was on a drug trial when he launched his charity and he knew how important this work would be for other people facing cancer in the future. It was in his nature to try and solve problems and this was his way of doing something positive.

“What’s wonderful is the opportunity our Foundation has given to so many other people who feel just like Bob did. People who support our charity because they want to help find better ways to treat cancer. It’s a real team effort and we were so glad to have the chance to explain more about it all to David.”