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Norwich researchers receive more than £100,000 from public donations

PUBLISHED: 07:31 23 December 2011

Dr Stephen Robinson working in his lab at the UEA, who has just been awarded over £100,000 to fund his research by the Big C. Picture: Denise Bradley

Dr Stephen Robinson working in his lab at the UEA, who has just been awarded over £100,000 to fund his research by the Big C. Picture: Denise Bradley

Archant 2011

Norwich researchers will be able to carry out pioneering work investigating how to stop cancer spreading through the body thanks to more than £100,000 of public donations.

Every penny has been collected by city-based cancer charity Big C through people organising events including coffee mornings, black-tie evenings, fun runs and cycling.

The £107,478 grant is thought to be one of the biggest made by the group. All cancer patients could see a direct benefit if the study is successful in pinning down how to stop tumours growing.

Dr Stephen Robinson, of the University of East Anglia, will be able to recruit an extra team member and buy supplies for his studies on angiogenesis –the process by which a tumour tops up its own blood supply.

Big C praised people from across Norfolk and Waveney for their generosity – which was immediately welcomed by cancer patients who believe this could provide a greater understanding of the disease.

Dr Robinson, who works at the UEA’s School of Biological Sciences, said he was “ecstatic”. He said the money will enable a PhD student to become the third member of the team, with the funding covering this position for three years.

Dr Robinson said: “There are lots of drugs in the US and UK for stopping angiogenesis to prevent tumours growing from a really small size but they are not working as long as we would like.

“Traditionally tumours stop growing for a little while but then start growing again. Something happens when they become resistant. We are trying to find why and find better ways of targeting angiogenesis.

“It was great coming to the UEA but I need money to do the things. Now we will be able to do something.”

Dr Robinson was previously based at Cancer Research UK in London and has spent time researching angiogenesis.

Tumours can only grow to a limited size without their own blood supply. But once they are able to do this, it increases their ability to grow and spread.

Dr Robinson hopes to investigate the role of two molecules and how targeting both could impede angiogenesis. No-one has examined this issue to date.

And existing therapies are said to prolong the lives of patients for only a few months.

Ray Cossey, chairman of the Norfolk & Waveney Prostate Cancer Support Group, said: “As a prostate cancer patient, I have a layman’s awareness that angiogenesis is important in the development and spread of a variety of human cancers, including prostate cancer.

“With some 34,000 men being diagnosed with prostate cancer in this country every year, Dr Robinson’s work, and the potential for the manipulation of angiogenic factors as a practical cancer therapy, would seem to offer real future benefits in a better understanding of the most prevalent, male cancer.”

Fundraisers from across the city and county are continuing to plan events in aid of Big C.

The North Norfolk Beach Runners (NNBR) will use its Boxing Day Dip to collect cash for the charity in memory of Jeff Dodds, a former club member and Norwich resident.

Mr Dodds, who was a scriptwriter for television programmes including Holby City and Midsomer Murders, died this summer from a brain tumour.

Jeremy Bolam, of NNBR, said: “Jeff was helped by Big C during his two years of treatment and his wife was a great supporter of the charity so we thought we would like to support it ourselves.”

Mr Bolam said between 200 and 300 people usually competed in the race in Cromer, which involves runners immersing themselves in the sea before running up the beach and returning to the water. More than £2,000 is expected to be collected.

Daniel Williams, chief executive of Big C, said: “Every penny of this money has been raised by local people and I would like to personally thank everyone who has fundraised for us.

“Your money is going to fund research which could have a direct impact on how cancer is treated.”

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