Monday, 29 November 2010


When Sir Bobby Robson launched his charity in 2008 it was his heartfelt ambition to help fund world class cancer research and treatment within the north east. Today marks another significant step forward in fulfilling his ambition as the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and Newcastle University announce major investment into cancer research equipment, which is the first of its kind in Europe.

Newcastle University and the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation have committed to buying a Biomarker Generator, an ultra-compact cyclotron from ABT Molecular Imaging, Inc. (Knoxville, Tennessee, US), which will help with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and other serious diseases.

Only the second of its type in the world, it will be the first in Europe, and will help in the development of new cancer treatments to save lives.

ABT sells the Biomarker Generator for close to £1,000,000 and its purchase has been made possible thanks to incredible support from fund-raisers and donations to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and it will directly benefit cancer patients from across the north east and Cumbria.

The Biomarker Generator works by creating radioactive tracers which are given to patients who subsequently undergo scans (also known as imaging)to provide information on cancer and other diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The information collected from imaging radioactive tracers helps doctors to understand where the disease is in each patient, how serious the disease is, and the underlying processes and pathways that are sustaining the illness.

Herbie Newell, Professor of Cancer Therapeutics at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research, Newcastle University, explained: “This is a piece of equipment which will help us enormously in our fight against cancer. It is a really powerful technology which will allow us to assess which patients are most likely to benefit from particular types of drug or radiation therapy, and whether the treatments are working. It will especially help us with our research into new and better ways of treating cancer.

“As well as being valuable in diagnosing certain cancers, neurological and cardiac diseases, it can also help to show where drugs are going in the body. For individual patients it will help us work out whether drugs are working or if a different approach to treatment might be better."

Announcing investment into the Biomarker Generator marks a proud day for Sir Bobby’s widow, Lady Elsie Robson, and for his family and supporters of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

Lady Elsie said: “My husband was whole hearted in everything he set out to do and when he launched this charity he wanted to help fund the very best in terms of cancer research and treatment.

“My family and I are incredibly proud to know that his legacy continues to grow with the funding of this equipment and I know he would be bursting with pride too.

“Bob described this charity as his last and greatest team and that’s what it continues to be.
“Every single penny raised in aid of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation helps in the fight against this terrible disease and I am very grateful for the ongoing efforts of all our wonderful supporters. Each and every one of them is part of this fantastic achievement and with continued support we will find more effective treatments for cancer.”

Newcastle has invested heavily over recent years in the development of imaging facilities for both clinical and research use. The cyclotron builds on support from the Regional Development Agency ONE North East, Cancer Research UK, and the Engineering and Physical Sciences and Medical Research Councils.

The cyclotron will be housed in a newly built ‘specialist environment’ in the School of Chemistry at Newcastle University. The ‘specialist environment’ is a requirement when making agents that will be administered to patients, and the University is funding this aspect of the project. The Head of the School of Chemistry, Professor Mike Green commented: “The purchase of the Biomarker Generator is the last piece in the jigsaw, and when this facility opens in summer 2011 we will have a fully integrated imaging facility in Newcastle.”

“The facility will be run by an extremely talented radiochemist, Dr Mike Carroll.
The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation was launched by Sir Bobby in March 2008 and has gone on to raise more than £2.5 million to fight cancer.