£4.5m announced for head and neck and proton beam therapy cancer research at The Christie

Press release posted 20 June 2019

Patients with cancers of the mouth and throat are set to benefit from an announcement today that £4.5m has been donated to The Christie NHS Foundation Trust by businessman and philanthropist Ian Taylor.

The funding will support the UK’s first ever clinical trial for patients using high-energy proton beam therapy, which will open later this year.

Mr Taylor will make the announcement during a visit to Manchester’s internationally acclaimed specialist cancer centre, The Christie, which started treating patients in the NHS’s first high energy proton beam therapy centre in December 2018.

The donation to The Christie is part of £15m pledged by Mr Taylor on behalf of The Taylor Family Foundation to head and neck and proton beam therapy cancer research in the UK.

Mr Taylor is the chairman and former global CEO of the Vitol Group, the world’s largest independent energy trader. He was educated at King’s School in Macclesfield, close to Manchester and was treated with proton beam therapy at the PSI Clinic in Switzerland in 2018 for throat cancer.

The donation will support the team led by Dr David Thomson, a specialist in head and neck cancers at The Christie in clinical trials, scientific research, innovation through translational science and the training of future leaders in the treatment of head and neck cancer. Dr Thomson is the Chief Investigator for the trial.  

The core costs for this UK first trial are being funded by Cancer Research UK, but The Taylor Family Foundation donation will widen access to proton beam therapy trials by helping with patient and carer travel costs for those who live a long way from Manchester and who will need treatment over a seven week period.

The Foundation will also fund sample collection and analysis, immune profiling, tumour genomics, physics and imaging studies to develop translational science approaches to the individualisation of future treatments. This team science work will be led by Professor Catherine West from The University of Manchester.

The donation aims to improve survival rates for patients with head and neck cancers, reduce the side effects of treatment, and to change the way head and neck cancers are treated in the UK and around the world.

The donation will also help to train future proton beam therapy research leaders through the establishment of The Taylor Family Foundation Proton Fellowship to support three new research fellows working at The Christie.

It will also drive the first UK proton therapy trials for different head and neck cancers in combination with targeted drug therapies and immunotherapy – opening up the possibility of an exciting step change in clinical outcomes.

“This phenomenal donation from The Taylor Family Foundation is incredibly generous, and will make a real difference to patients with head and neck cancer,” said Professor Robert Bristow, the Chief Academic Officer of The Christie NHS Foundation Trust and Co-Director of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Centre.

“In partnership with Cancer Research UK, we aim to lead the world in establishing the clinical benefit of proton beam therapy in combination with novel cancer agents. This will be underpinned by exceptional biological and physical science, to help understand how we can personalise and best use proton therapy to improve survival outcomes and the long-term quality of life for our patients.”

Ian Taylor said: “We are delighted to be working with The Christie and Cancer Research UK to be helping delivering proton beam therapy treatment (PBT) care for all those who can benefit from this exciting new treatment. The Taylor Family Foundation passionately believes that PBT can play an important role in curing head and neck cancers as well as helping children with issues such as brain tumours. We are looking forward to a long and positive relationship with The Christie and Cancer Research UK to achieve these objectives.”     

The Christie NHS Foundation Trust was the first specialist trust to be rated as ‘Outstanding’ twice (in 2016 and 2018) by the health regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC). It referred to The Christie as ‘a leader in cancer care’ and ‘a pioneer in developing innovative solutions to cancer care.’ The CQC praised the Trust’s staff which it said ‘go the extra mile to meet the needs of patients and their families’ and that they were ‘exceptionally kind and caring.’ In 2017, the CQC rated The Christie as the best specialist trust in the country, and one of the top three trusts overall in England.