Sutton’s corner where thousands are working on the next big cancer breakthrough

The London Cancer Center in the Belmont area of ​​Sutton is already a bustling campus but will expand in the coming years.

It is estimated to create 13,000 jobs, 7,000 in life sciences and another 6,200 in site construction.

The Hub is built around the existing Royal Marsden cancer hospital.

These include the Maggie Cancer Center, providing free support to patients, the Cancer Research Institute (ICR) and even the high school, Harris Academy Sutton, on the other side of the site.

On a sunny afternoon, the Local Democracy Reporting Service visited the growing hub to have a look.

Gardens of wildflowers surround the impressive new building.

ICR’s £75 million Cancer Drug Discovery Center opened in 2020 and is now staffed with over 200 drug discovery scientists and evolutionists.

Meanwhile, the Oaks Cancer Center, which was opened in June 2023 by the Prince of Wales, is a research and treatment facility that will help accelerate the development of new treatments.

In an unassuming building on the edge of the current site is the Innovation Gateway, where various companies are working on groundbreaking advances in the cancer field.

It opens in early 2022 and is a partnership between ICR and Sutton Council.

Curresponse moved in September 2022 and is the only business of its kind in the UK.

The Israeli company was founded in 2018 and Dr Sandra Hanks heads the UK operation where she works with two lab technicians Naoise Costelloe and Cindy Harricharan.

Curresponse takes biopsies of the patient’s tumor and keeps it alive for up to seven days.

It slices the tissue into pieces and treats each section with a different medicine.

It can then see how the patient’s tumor reacts to each drug and which one is most effective.

Dr Hanks previously worked in clinical genomics, gene studies, at the Royal Marsden and Institute for Cancer and said the lab at Sutton was suitable for a growing company.

He said: “The thing about our test is that we can keep the tumor alive so it actually mimics what’s going on inside the patient’s body when we do the test.

“This can really benefit patient care and assist a patient’s oncologist in determining the best course of treatment.

“Since this is an oncology community it made a lot of sense to come to the London Cancer Hub.”

Down the hall, a small office is home to the Exercise Clinic, which wants to change the lives of people living with cancer, specifically prostate cancer.

Here we meet co-founders Emily Curtis and Chris Cottrell who have worked with hundreds of prostate cancer patients at Royal Marsden since 2020.

Most are on hormone therapy that stops testosterone and clinics have found targeted exercise can lessen the effects of this treatment.

Chris himself was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer 12 years ago and was given only a few years to live.

She was referred to an exercise program in 2013 by an oncologist who she said was “ahead of her time” and that is how she met Emily.

He said: “I was given a relatively short time to live but I am now living with advanced prostate cancer and still have many years to go.

“When you get diagnosed it’s scary because you don’t really know what lies ahead.

“You don’t know much about this disease and you don’t want to help, you don’t know what is safe to do.”

Chris participates in every group session run by the Exercise Clinic.

He is still on strong hormone therapy which blocks testosterone which can lead to loss of muscle mass, thinning bones, fatigue and loss of libido.

Exercise can combat this effect in patients and businesses are committed to researching the benefits of patents.

Emily says: “We do one-on-one sessions and six group sessions every week and collect information through the project.

“The ultimate goal is to help as many people with a safe and long-term exercise regime that suits them.”

Chris wants thousands more patients to experience the benefits he’s seen from the program.

He added: “When I went through the treatment at first it was the hardest. I have now had the same treatment for six years. Sport has changed my life, allowed me to live normally.

“We worked with hundreds of patients and worked with an idea that would allow us to work with thousands of patients, very few people doing what we did.”

There are plans to expand the London Cancer Hub further. Earlier this year, Sutton Council approved plans to demolish a series of Victorian buildings it owned on the edge of the site that was once a children’s hospital.

The council is now looking for investors to build a new facility on the site and hopes partners will be found by the end of the year.

The authority has also secured £14 million from the government to improve services to Belmont Station, a 10-minute walk from the hub.

This will be used to double the number of trains per hour from two to four.

The chair of the board, Councilor Ruth Dombey, said: “I am extremely proud that Sutton is already the world’s leading center for cancer care and research.

“Our partners at the Institute of Cancer Research and Royal Marsden, and the companies at Innovation Gateway, are doing extraordinary work treating cancer, discovering new drugs and saving lives.

“Our plans to expand the London Cancer Hub will really elevate everything. We are now preparing council estate for a state-of-the-art new facility.

“This includes clearing out the abandoned Sutton Hospital buildings, so people will see real change in the coming months.

“Together with our ambitious plans to transform the nearby Sutton Town Centre, the London Cancer Hub will position Sutton as the perfect place to live, work, spend time and do business. I can’t wait to see that vision come true.”


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