SOUTHAMPTON is set to lead the way in the fight against cancer after plans were revealed for a £20m state-of-the-art re-search centre in the city.

The trail blazing facility will be located at the Southampton General Hospital site and be dedicated to pioneering a cancer treatment centre widely seen as a ray of hope in the battle against the killer disease.

Up to 50 scientists will research immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the body’s own immune system to target cancer.

And the centre planned by the University of Southampton will offer the chance for Hampshire cancer patients to undergo trials using revolutionary new medicines.

University bosses also hope it could transform the city into a hub for world leading biomedicine research and attract pharmaceutical manufacturers to the region.

Professor of experimental medicine Tim Elliott said: “We already have a cancer research centre with an international reputation, especially in the area of immunology and what the new centre will do is allow us to stay at the top of the premiership league.

“Immunotherapy is the most exciting approach to curing cancer and that’s the reason to focus on this.

“The new centre will have state-of-the-art equipment in terms of world class researchers all focused on accelerating research into cancer immunology and how we can use it to beat cancer.”

It will be located next to an existing centre which is a partnership between Cancer Research UK, the University of Southampton and Southampton University Hospital NHS Trust.

Already £10 million has been secured but £10 million is to be raised by 2017 after a fundraising campaign is launched in the autumn.

Southampton Test MP John Denham welcomed the plans. He said: “It’s absolutely fantastic news and will help cement Southampton’s leading role in the life sciences and I would like to show my backing to the university in its plans.”

Former Saints defender Francis Benali, who is currently aiming to raise £1m for Cancer Research UK by running to each of the 20 Premier League grounds later this month, has thrown his support behind the plans.

“I think this is an exciting time in the fight against cancer, with these new laboratories and the research into immunology,” he said.

“It’s obviously different to a lot of the traditional methods used to treat and fight cancer and is something that has been worked on for some time.

“But this new facility can only accelerate and bring forward the day when, hopefully, we will find a cure for this terrible disease.”

Designs for the centre have yet to be finalised but are set to go before planners in the coming weeks.

n To sponsor Francis, text BIGR55 followed by the amount you would like to donate (e.g. BIGR55 £10) to 70070 or visit benalisbigrun