The initiative, known as TARGET National, is funded by The Christie charity and the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and is supported by Roche UK. It will recruit 6,000 cancer patients from across the UK through 18 cancer centres in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Funded by the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation in 2017 with a grant of £892,000, PROSPECT-NE was based at the Royal Victoria Infirmary’s Pathology Hub and linked with the cancer drug trials undertaken by patients at the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre.
The same funding is now enabling the PROSPECT-NE project to become part of TARGET National and it will continue to be delivered in the North East through Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Marilyn Bint, a former nurse, was diagnosed with cancer in September 2020. The 73-year-old from Ponteland is married to husband Adrian and they have two children and five grandchildren.
She said: “My diagnosis came out of the blue. I hadn’t had any symptoms then felt suddenly unwell and it was discovered I had tumours in my brain and lungs.
“Because of the locations of the tumours, nobody really wanted to do a biopsy because it was deemed too risky. There wasn’t another option until Dr Greystoke called about the blood test and to the relief of everyone, my biopsy was cancelled.
“The blood test enabled the team to identify the best treatment for me and for the last year it’s been effective on the cancer in both my brain and lungs.
“That’s changed recently and we’re looking again at what might work better for me, again via the Sir Bobby Robson Centre and a blood test to look at the tumour profiling.
“It’s incredible the difference the treatment has made to my life and I cannot emphasise enough how good it’s been.
“I’ve experienced very few side effects and can still play 18 holes of golf, and Adrian and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary in June last year. In 2020, we simply didn’t think that would be possible.”
The study is open to cancer patients with solid tumours who have exhausted all other treatment options and are considered by their oncologists to be suitable for early phase, experimental trials.
Researchers will analyse the genetic characteristics of a patient’s cancer from a blood sample.
They will look for any faulty genes that may help inform that individual’s suitability to receive an experimental treatment.
Because small amounts of DNA leak from the tumour into the blood stream, a blood sample taken from the patient can be all that is needed to find the genetic code of the tumour.