CANCER research at the University of Southampton is to receive a boost with the opening of a new £5.5 million research building at Southampton General Hospital.

The Somers Cancer Research Building, due to be opened by the Duke of Gloucester tomorrow will provide state-of-the-art facilities for the university's internationally renowned team of cancer scientists.

It will further enhance Southampton's reputation as one of the world's leading cancer centres. A joint project between the university and cancer charity Cancer Research UK, the new building takes its name from the Somers family, which has strong links with Southampton, in recognition of a substantial donation made towards the funding required for its completion.

The building will be inaugurated by Phyllis Somers, whose company, Neutral Holdings Limited, made the donation, and who wished to demonstrate her support for the important research to be undertaken at the new centre.

The Somers Cancer Research Building will house some of the world's top scientists working on a range of leading-edge research projects harnessing the immune system to fight cancer.

These include new anti-body-based treatments and pioneering work to develop DNA vaccines for lymphomas and other tumour types. Professor Peter Johnson, head of cancer research at the university, said: "This building represents a focus for our efforts to turn scientific discoveries into treatment for patients.

"We are concentrating in particular on the events in cells that turn them malignant and how the body's immune system can be persuaded to help with treatment.

"It is important to bring together under one roof the laboratory scientists and the researchers who work with patients in the clinics. The support from Cancer Research UK has enabled us to draw in funding from the government's Joint Infrastructure Fund to establish a research facility that will be a focus for medical and scientific excellence both regionally and nationally." Mrs Somers and her late husband Nat lived in the Southampton area for many years.

They owned and operated the airport at Southampton (Eastleigh), which they took over at the beginning of 1961 when it was on the verge of closure, at the suggestion of the then Southampton City Council.

Southampton Airports, went on to build it up and provide a valuable air link between the mainland, the Channel Islands and Europe.