CANCER research in Southampton is set to get a £4 million funding boost, it has been revealed today.

Scientists in the city are leading an international team of experts in developing new immunotherapy treatments for patients.

Now their pioneering work which studies how the body’s own immune system can be used in a battle against cancer, has been given a cash boost by Cancer Research UK.

Over the next five years the scientists will receive the £4 million as part of the charity’s Centres’ Network Accelerator Awards scheme that will see £16 million spent across the UK by the charity to combat the cancers that are most difficult to treat.

As previously reported by the Daily Echo, the group of Southampton scientists have already become renowned for their research into immunotherapy, which ‘wakes up’ the patient’s immune system to kill cancer.

It comes after a massive £25 million Centre for Cancer Immunology was also granted planning permission in Southampton.

The University of Southampton have said the centre could be open as soon as next year, meaning the city will be at the forefront of the fight against cancer.

The new funding will help researchers investigate why some tumours respond so well to immunotherapy, with the aim of identifying patients who are most likely to benefit from these types of treatment, and finding ways of making it more effective for more people.

They will focus on melanoma, lung and oesophageal cancers.

Daily Echo: Professor Tim Elliott

The experts who will be researching immunotherapy come from the Cancer Research UK centres in Southampton and Oxford, who will be working with a leading research institute in California.

Professor Tim Elliott, pictured, who is based at the University of Southampton, said: “We’re delighted to have been awarded this grant from Cancer Research UK to further our understanding of how immunotherapy works.

“Research such as this could ultimately lead to better ways to tailor treatment to individuals, giving them the best possible chance to beat their cancer.”

Dr Iain Foulkes, executive director for research funding at Cancer Research UK, said: “We’re excited to be investing in collaborative and innovative research in Southampton and across the UK. It’s by working together and uniting expertise that we will accelerate cutting-edge research and save more lives.”

Daily Echo: Laine Parker

Laine Parker is a cancer patient who received immunotherapy in Southampton after he was diagnosed.

The 48-year-old, from Eastleigh, got the treatment as part of a clinical trial for his diagnosis of Non Hodgkins Lymphoma, and now says he feels better than ever.

Mr Parker, a father-of-two, began his battle with cancer in 2011, and was diagnosed after he became increasingly exhausted and his stomach swelled so badly he said he was left looking like Homer Simpson.

Following a trip ton the doctor he was sent for an ultrasound and a variety of tests which confirmed the worst.

The following day he started the first of six gruelling rounds of chemotherapy which unfortunately failed.

Parts of the treatment he found exceptionally difficult to cope with and briefly turned to natural remedies to see if they could help, but it was recommended that he undergo a stem cell transplant that would effectively kill off his immune system to destroy the cancer cells.

With his cancer still not in remission, he was recommended for a Cancer Research UK led clinical trial, testing a new immunotherapy drug that doctors hope will turn the immune system against cancer.

After finishing the treatment he is now being closely monitored by doctors.

Mr Parker, a sewage worker, said: “For me, making the decision to join a clinical trial was easy. Remarkably I had no side effects at all. I’m back at work and I feel the best I have felt in five years.

“I am living my life and I feel I’ve really struck lucky. I feel I live in the best area I could in terms of the work and research that is happening in Southampton.

“They thoroughly deserve every penny of this financial award to boost immunotherapy research because what they are doing to help people like me is incredible.”