IT could pave the way towards lifesaving treatments.

The University of Southampton have launched an ambitious £25m fundraising campaign to build a multi-million-pound centre for groundbreaking cancer research in Southampton.

The campaign was launched last night with a conference and meal attended by professors, researchers and stars including Saints legend Franny Benali who last year raised more than £185,000 for Cancer Research UK by running between each of the 20 Premier League football clubs.

The conference was led by dean of the faculty of medicine at the University of Southampton Professor Iain Cameron and featured a talk by oncologist Professor Peter Johnson, and a question and answer session with Professor Dame Jessica Corner, the chief executive of Southampton General Hospital Fiona Dalton and clinical trial patient Tom Worthen.

The state-of-the-art Centre for Cancer Immunology will be the first of its kind in the UK - and bring 50 new jobs to the city.

The flagship purpose-built centre, based at Southampton General Hospital, will bring together world-leading specialists who will use world-class research facilities and laboratories to work on a new cure the disease.

Daily Echo:

Prof Iain Cameron

It comes after 40 years of Southampton doctors have leading the way in researching pioneering new treatment which uses the body's natural defences to eradicate cancer cells.

As well as attacking known cancer cells, the immune system is also taught to seek out hidden cancers in other parts of the body.

And doctors say it will give patients a lifetime of immunity to the disease.

Southampton's researchers have already played a part in developing one of the first treatments to extend the life of cancer patients and more powerful antibody treatments - and clinical trials have seen 50 per cent of patients with some forms of the disease show significant improvements.

Now they say the next step is to create a hub so that some of the best medics in the country can work together to bring new treatments into our hospitals.

But before the centre can become a reality the University of Southampton needs to raise another £12m towards its £25m target.

Daily Echo:

Francis Benali at the event in Southampton

Prof Iain Cameron said: "Through creating the Centre for Immunology we have an opportunity to develop new therapies and make a huge impact in the fight against cancer and we can play a part.

"Each gift makes a huge difference."

Chief executive of Southampton General Hospital Fiona Dalton said: "We can be at the cutting edge of doing things differently and discovering new things and that's a really exciting place to be."

Building work is expected to begin this summer and the university hopes to open the centre in 2017.

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