What is the new building?
The new building is a world-leading Centre for Cancer Immunology and the first dedicated research centre of this kind in the UK. Our state of the art Centre brings together world-leading specialists from a range of disciplines to harness the power of immunity in the fight against cancer. Scientists, clinicians, technical experts and patients will collaborate in a creative, interactive environment, generating new knowledge, developing new treatments and delivering cures for cancers to patients more effectively and more quickly.
What is cancer immunology and why are we focusing on this area of research?
Your immune system is the best weapon you have against cancer but unfortunately cancer cells are ingenious and hard to defeat. They are often able to escape our defences and continue to grow by switching off or confusing our immune system’s killer T cells. Cancer immunotherapy is a revolutionary new treatment which supercharges the body’s natural defences to switch back on our killer T cells, enabling them to ‘see’ the invasive cancer cells and eliminate them. Immunotherapy treatments developed at Southampton do not only destroy visible cancer cells but also seek out and eradicate hidden cancers in other parts of the body. Potentially, they give us a lifetime of immunity.
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. And, with an ageing population, it’s becoming much more common. In the UK, one in two of us will be diagnosed in our lifetime.
However, there has been a revolution in cancer research over the past few years and many experts believe that most cancers will soon be controllable all curable. Southampton researchers have been central to these advances.
Cancer immunology is an expanding and exciting area of research and we are seeing some amazing results in our clinical trials. As many as half of our clinical trial patients with difficult and terminal cancers (often just given months to live) are showing dramatic improvements with immunotherapy and 20% are living cancer free.
Why did we need a new building?
We are on the cusp of exciting breakthroughs in curing cancer but we still have a lot to learn. We needed a bigger space to accommodate and expand existing teams and to house vital state-of-the-art facilities. By pooling our knowledge and expanding our resources, we will accelerate progress and save more lives from cancer.
It is best summed up by the new Director for Centre, Professor Tim Elliott: “The Centre is of huge importance. This is the first dedicated cancer immunology centre in the UK that brings the whole research pipeline under one roof: from pioneering discovery science to applied research and preclinical modelling and crucially onto first-in-human clinical trials and beyond. This is what Southampton is famous for and the new Centre will ensure that we are able to step up the flow through this pipeline.”
What are the main aims of the new Centre?
We aim to expand and accelerate our programme of research into cancer and the immune system: how cancers evade immune detection, how they can be made recognisable again, and how we can switch on the body’s responses to treat them. This will encompass a range of work spanning from basic discovery of the precise mechanisms involved right through to clinical trials of new types of treatment.
One of our main challenges is to find out why some patients respond well to immunotherapy and others do not. Building on the fast-moving developments in the field of immunology, the new Centre aims to develop tailored treatments for patients so that everyone can benefit.
Which cancers are we seeing results with?
We have had success in immunotherapy trials with lung, melanoma (advanced skin cancer), lymphoma (blood cancer), head & neck cancers and neuroblastoma (childhood cancer). Our research also includes breast, prostate and colorectal cancers.
We believe immunotherapy has the potential to cure all cancers and could offer patients a lifetime of immunity from the cancer they are treated for.
Why is Southampton the right place for this dedicated Centre?
Southampton is truly a world player, at the forefront of cancer immunology research in Europe and Worldwide, and is in a prime position to make a leading contribution in this area. We have over 40 years’ experience in this field and superb expertise in both basic science and its clinical application. We have a deep molecular understanding of cancer immunology and have been a true pioneer in the discovery and application of immune-based therapies, including antibodies and vaccines. We have also transferred many of our lab discoveries to the clinics, playing a significant part in developing many new treatments, including one of the first approved immunotherapy drugs ipilimumab, extending the lives of patients with melanoma. Southampton is also leading on many UK trials, including melanoma and neuroblastoma, extending the lives of many patients with advanced stage cancers. We have a world-class team and the new Centre will allow us to make it better still and importantly accelerate our research progress.
What is in the new Centre?
The new 4,000m2, four-storey building, dedicated entirely to cancer immunology research, houses state-of-the-art equipment to support the development of new cancer immunotherapies – from discovery in the lab to clinical trials. It contains world-class research facilities, including a suite of molecular biology laboratories.
As well as accommodating existing immunology teams from different research bases, currently working at disparate locations, the new Centre will welcome at least 60 new staff, including important recruits in discovery science.
Will it replace or add to the current facility?
The new research centre replaces existing research facilities.
Where is the new building?
The new Centre is situated at University Hospital Southampton, opposite the hospital’s main entrance, next to the Somers Building.
This space used to be the disabled car par and these spaces were relocated throughout the hospital site at access points including the main entrance (with spaces on the ground floor of the main car park), the eye unit, the neurological centre, the west wing entrance and Taplins nursery. The aim was to make access for disabled users easier. Additional standard parking spaces, more than sufficient to cover the spaces displaced by the new disabled parking, were made available at the new multi-storey car park, on Coxford Road. Hospital signage directs users to the new available spaces.
How much did the new Centre cost to build?
The new Centre cost £25m.
How was the new Centre funded?
In 2015 the University of Southampton launched a major campaign to raise £25m to cover the cost of the new Centre. Thanks to significant philanthropic contributions and amazing support, we raised the full £25m by February 2018.
Once the Centre is established the research will continue to be funded by Research Councils, charities such as Cancer Research UK and industry collaborations. By expanding our research facilities, we will be able to bring in more grants.
The University will continue to fundraise for the new Centre, supporting the people within it that will drive forward the life-saving research. You can find out more about this and how to support it here.
How can I get on a clinical trial?
Visit our website page about clinical trials:
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