To mark International Clinical Trials Day (20th May), members of the public were invited to an Open Day at the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care in Newcastle.

All 65 places at the first-of-its-kind event were quickly taken up when they became available last month. Visitors had the opportunity to find out more about the cancer drug trials being undertaken at the Centre, as well as watching laboratory demonstrations and talking directly to researchers and nurses.

Lady Elsie Robson was among the guests and charity representatives who gathered at the Centre to highlight the importance of clinical trials, here in the North East and across the world.

Lady Elsie says: “It’s a marvellous idea to open up the Centre so people can find out more about the important work that happens here.

“The day has been very well organised and enlightening. The staff here are wonderful and 14 of them came in on their day off today. I think that says a lot about their commitment.

“The feedback we receive from people having their treatment here is always so positive.

“Cancer is a dreadful disease but there’s still a warmth and kindness about this place that makes it very special.”

Cancer drug trials in the North East are a strong team effort and in 2013 the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation was proud to join the Newcastle Cancer Centre.

This partnership launched in July 2009 and is a collaboration of Cancer Research UK, North of England Children’s Cancer Research Fund, Newcastle University and Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

By promoting closer links between scientists, doctors, nurses and funding organisations, the Newcastle Cancer Centre aims to speed the delivery of new therapies and improve cancer services in the area.

Working in partnership with Newcastle’s other leading cancer organisations also helps reduce any duplication of work, meaning charitable funds can go even further.

Nobody embodies the teamwork of the Newcastle Cancer Centre better than Professor Ruth Plummer.

Professor Plummer is Director of the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Research Trials Centre and a Trustee of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. She is also Lead of the Cancer Research UK Centre at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research in Newcastle.

Professor Plummer says: “It’s been a great pleasure welcoming so many interested people into the Sir Bobby Centre on International Clinical Trials Day.

“The importance of clinical trials is being highlighted all over the world and this feels like a great time to celebrate the benefits of working together as a team to bring forward better and innovative treatments for cancer patients.

“Of course our most important teamwork begins with our patients who choose to undertake a drug trial. Without their input none of this would be possible.

“Sir Bobby was a patient here and he absolutely understood how important the progression of clinical trials is, and the vital role patients play in that. I’m sure he’d be very proud to see the steps forward we’re all taking together.”

The Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre was opened by Sir Bobby in February 2009.

Over 600 new patients were enrolled on clinical trials at the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre in the last year alone and many more were enrolled in other research studies, studying the biology and genetics of cancer to help develop and improve treatments.

There has been a year on year increase in the number of clinical trials open to recruitment and staffing in the Centre has risen from 27 when it opened to 51. Further developments are planned, which will involve still further expansion of the team.

In addition to contributing the initial £500,000 to equip the unit, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation funds specialist drug trials training posts for both a doctor and nurse in the Centre and continues to enhance the facilities for patients when required.

One in five patients with cancer in the UK joins a clinical trial. On average, over 25,000 patients are recruited to Cancer Research UK supported trials every year.

Ben Hood, Cancer Research UK Specialist Nurse at the Centre, who helped organise the Open Day, says: “Our groundbreaking clinical trials have helped prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, saving lives across the world.

“Clinical trials are vital to find out if new treatments are safe and better than current treatments. No other charitable organisation has funded more cancer clinical trials in the UK than Cancer Research UK.”