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Minister gets triple dose of world-leading research

30 Tachwedd 2009

Standing on the site of what will become the PET Scanner Control RoomStanding on the site of what will become the PET Scanner Control Room Front row left to right - First Minister for Wales, Rhodri Morgan, Dr Steve Daniels, Jan Williams Back row - Professor Alan Clarke, Professor Tim Maughan, Professor Malcolm Jones, Dr John Rees

First Minister for Wales Rhodri Morgan has visited examples of the world-leading healthcare research brought to Wales and the University during his time in office.

The University hosted Mr Morgan, now in his last two weeks in office, as he heard about the work of the new Cardiff Cancer Research UK Centre, the Wales Cancer Trials Unit, and inspected the installation of the Positron Emission Tomography Imaging Centre (PETIC).

The new Cardiff Cancer Research UK Centre is a joint venture between Cancer Research UK, Cardiff University, Cardiff and Vale University Local Health Board and Velindre NHS Trust. Cancer Research UK is investing an extra £2million over the next three years in the Centre, one of a chain it is launching nationwide. It will draw together world leading research and medical expertise from all the partners to deliver the best results for cancer patients.

The Centre will focus on the biology and treatment of bowel, breast and urological cancers and leukaemia, in particular how these diseases can be detected earlier. It also aims to help the next generation of researchers by expanding the existing four year PhD programme for clinical and non-clinical graduates. The Wales Cancer Trials Unit will be an integral part of the Centre. It is running a number of trials including the world’s largest lung cancer trial, funded by Cancer Research UK.

Mr Morgan heard presentations from the Centre’s Director and Deputy Director, Professors Alan Clarke and Tim Maughan, and from the Scientific Director of the Wales Cancer Trials Unit, Gareth Griffiths.

Professor Clarke said: "Researchers at the Centre will be working with the Assembly Government’s Welsh Office of Research and Development in health and social care. We explained to the First Minister how researchers working on the genetics of cancer will be working with doctors who are treating patients. This will speed up the process of applying genetic research in the laboratory to fighting cancer in the clinic."

The First Minister then toured PETIC, a joint project between the University and the Local Health Board, funded by £16.5M from the Welsh Assembly Government. PETIC will offer patients scanning facilities not currently available in Wales, and support research into biological processes and structures.

PET scanning can show up biological processes in greater detail, and earlier in their development than many other scanning techniques. It will help understanding of cancers, brain and heart diseases and many other disorders. Its installation is the most technically complex project ever undertaken on the Heath Park site.

The Minister was shown the research laboratories, the area where the clinical scanner will be housed, the adjoining control room and the patient facilities. Dr. Steve Daniels, the Centre’s Research Director, said: "We explained to the Minister the use of the new scanner, which will be the first of its kind to operate in Wales. At present, patients who need this facility have to travel to England so this will be a major benefit to them. The scanner will also allow researchers to investigate biological processes and structures in great detail, leading to new clinical, diagnostic and therapeutic strategies, including the earlier detection of disease."

The Cardiff Cancer Research UK Centre is funded to enable collaborations across research groups. For example, WCTU trials of new cancer treatments may be able to use the PET scanner to measure their effectiveness. This would give a better idea of the potential effect of new treatments at an earlier stage, potentially changing the design of clinical trials in the future and helping new treatments become available to patients earlier.

First Minister, Rhodri Morgan said: "This is the next major stride forward in the fight against this devastating and complex disease and one that will position Wales at the forefront of international advances in research, diagnosis and treatment for years to come.

"With alarming rates of cancer in Wales and the UK it is important that we continue to invest in leading Centre’s like this which truly aim to get at the heart of how cancer affects different individual patients, and find treatments which are tailored best to their needs.

"Only through joint collaborative working can we draw together unique areas of knowledge and expertise to strengthen the fight against cancer. By speeding up the process of turning complex research into effective diagnosis and treatment, it will ensure that patients benefit from the real and tangible results of our research activity."

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