By Louise Drewery on 23 February 2018

A ground-breaking research centre to help doctors detect the early signs of three life-changing illnesses is being built at Castle Hill Hospital with an investment of £1.8 million from the University of Hull.

Building on the University’s high-calibre research which has resulted in new imaging technologies and inventions which have already instigated six patent applications, the Molecular Imaging Research Centre will be used to provide the diagnostic tools to help doctors identify the early signs of cancer, heart disease and dementia.

On Monday, a plaque was unveiled at the site for the £7.2 million research centre which is the result of a partnership between the Daisy Appeal, the University and Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals, to translate scientific and medical research advances into clinical use.

Since it was established in 2000, the Daisy Appeal has raised £12.5m to fund cutting-edge research and state-of-the-art equipment and facilities. At Castle Hill Hospital, the charity has already built an £8m research centre, which opened in 2008, and the £4.5m Jack Brignall PET-CT Scanning Centre, which opened in 2014.

Professor Susan Lea, Vice-Chancellor of the University, said:

“Our investment in this pioneering facility demonstrates our support for local healthcare and is underpinned by the University’s commitment to improving the health of people in this region and beyond, through strong partnership with the NHS and the Daisy charity in this case.

“The centre will build on our existing links with the Jack Brignall clinical imaging centre at Castle Hill Hospital as well as our current work on internationally-recognised medical research programmes in this field.”

Steve Archibald, Professor in Molecular Imaging at the University of Hull, said:

“The new centre will enable us to translate new technologies and treatments into a clinical setting enabling doctors to provide earlier detection and better treatment for their patients.”

By determining the molecular make up of a tumour, doctors can tailor the treatment for an individual thus giving a greater chance of success.

“We have been working towards better outcomes for patients as a result of new diagnostic PET imaging technology for four years at the University. The PET Research Centre at the University of Hull campus has been carrying out translational scientific and biomedical research since 2014.”

Positron emission tomography (PET) is a molecular imaging technique that allows a disease to be located and then understood at a biomolecular level to improve treatment. The PET-CT scanner takes pictures from all around the body and uses a computer to put them together. The patient is injected with a small amount of radioactive isotope – produced in a machine called a cyclotron which uses powerful electromagnetic fields to cause a nuclear reaction – to pinpoint the location of cancerous cells or other types of disease.

Professor Archibald said:

“We have developed collaborations across the UK and around the world and have pioneered new imaging technologies that are now ready to take into clinical trials. We have six patent applications filed on our inventions.

“Now we are building on this success by taking our research expertise direct to a clinical setting at the hospital.”

Work undertaken at the PET Research Centre at the University has been recognised with awards at national and international conferences and highlighted at the European Nuclear Medicine conference (Barcelona, 2016) and the Society for Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging meeting (Denver, USA  2017).

New technologies for the production of diagnostic drugs, new markers of disease and methods of interpreting and processing patient scan data have also been developed.

Professor Nick Stafford OBE, chair of the Daisy Appeal – which is leading the campaign – said:

“We are looking forward to working with leading specialists from across the UK to make this a pioneering centre in Europe for the early detection of three major life-changing conditions.

“This will make a huge difference to people in the local area who will be able to receive early intervention to significantly improve the opportunity for successful treatment.”

Work on the centre is scheduled for completion by March 2019.

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