Today is our anniversary! Thank you for being at our side for 15 years giving us incredible support and enabling us to find more effective ways to detect and treat cancer.
Launch of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation in 2008
On this day in 2008, Sir Bobby announced he was launching a Foundation, a fund within Newcastle Hospitals Charity that would work within the NHS and in partnership with others. He did this because he had received a request for help.
At the time, Sir Bobby was being treated by oncologist, Professor Ruth Plummer, and was taking part in a clinical trial of a new cancer drug at the General Hospital in Newcastle.
As well as running a clinical trials team, Professor Plummer and her colleagues were also trying to raise £500,000 to equip a new, purpose-built cancer drug trials centre at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care, at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.
This planned unit, what became the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre, was under construction at that point. Professor Plummer asked Sir Bobby if he knew anyone who might like to contribute to the fundraising to equip it and the rest is, well, not history, rather an ongoing story of ground-breaking cancer treatment and innovative patient support services.
And it all began with Sir Bobby’s gratitude for his own cancer treatment, his unwavering commitment and his positive vision of a future in which cancer is not such a frightening word.
Sir Bobby’s son, Mark Robson, has been reflecting on our achievements and what his Dad would make of it all.
Mark says: “I think we all know what Dad would be thinking after all this time. I never sat through any of his halftime team talks but I’m sure it would be along the lines of ‘well done everyone, we’re half way there, keep up the good work, we can do this. Let’s get the result we all want.’
“I wasn’t able to come to the launch of the Foundation but I do remember Dad ringing me that night and being animated and pretty excited by everything. There’d been a gradual build-up of nervousness as the launch date approached and, as with all things in life, he just wanted everything done correctly.
“The original fundraising target was £500,000 and we reached that very quickly, within weeks. At that point he could have just sat back but that wasn’t in his nature. He wanted to keep going and see what else could be achieved.
“For us, as a family, we didn’t talk about the Foundation a lot towards the end of Dad’s life. Everything was taken over by his illness. Being ill didn’t stop him though. He was very proud to have never missed a charity meeting or event, which was remarkable given how poorly he was.
Lady Elsie, Paul, Andrew and Mark in 2009
“Immediately after we lost Dad we discussed what the future held for Foundation and we, my Mum, my brothers and I all agreed that he would want us to continue with it.
“Back then, we didn’t know how things would go and obviously we couldn’t predict the level of support and fundraising but it just hasn’t let up. I know that’s something Dad would be incredibly proud of.
“And it’s that fundraising that keeps us going. Knowing that support is there is what keeps us as a family going with the Foundation, too. There’s so much faith in the work funded and we don’t want to let anyone down.”
The Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre was officially opened by Sir Bobby in February 2009. He was one of the first patients to receive treatment there.
Around 400 patients with non-curative cancer are referred to the centre each year and there are currently 30 early phase clinical drug trials active.
The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation funds a range of innovative cancer projects for children and adults with cancer. The research and clinical trials funded are not only making a huge difference to patients in the North East and Cumbria receiving treatment now, they are part of long-term national and international efforts into the disease and what Sir Bobby hoped would become his legacy for others facing cancer.
Mark adds: “Over the last 15 years, Dad’s Foundation has really grown into something very special. Working within the NHS, we’ve formed so many important partnerships with other organisations and charities and just got stronger and stronger.
“With everyone pulling together, we‘re determined to build on what’s already been achieved and continue the work Dad began. It’s an incredible thing to be funding work that is extending and saving lives. It’s a great privilege. I know my Dad was hugely proud of the Foundation but really, we’re all very proud of him. The Foundation is special because he made it special.”