First Centre of Its Kind in UK Opens in Region 07 April 2007
The first immunotherapy centre of its kind in the UK opened yesterday (05/04/07).
The 1m Wilson Horne Immunotherapy Centre, at Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary, will be used to try revolutionary treatments for conditions caused by disorders of the immune system. Because it will be the first time humans will be exposed to such therapies, the unit's staff have been trained to respond to deal with emergencies that might arise. Hopes are high that new ways of treating diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and multiple sclerosis can be developed in the near future by manipulating the body's immune system.
Professor John Isaacs, director of the centre and head of clinical rheumatology at Newcastle University, said he expected to carry out the world's first test of a new, locally developed form of immunotherapy for rheumatoid arthritis at the centre within the next 12 months.The centre will also test other immunotherapies being developed by pharmaceutical companies.
Stuart Armstrong, 57, is one of the patients to benefit from treatment by Prof Isaacs at the centre, using one of a new generation of immunotherapy drugs. Mr Armstrong, from the Hexham area of Northumberland, but who now lives near Dumfries, in the Scottish Borders, was almost crippled by rheumatoid arthritis, which forced him to give up his job as a roofer. But after months of treatment with an unnamed new drug, Mr Armstrong said he has been given a new lease of life.The grandfather-of-five said: "A year ago, I could not even shake your hand."I have greater mobility, my horrendous pain has greatly reduced and I can drive and cut my lawn again. It is fantastic."
Prof Isaacs said the experience of volunteer patients who were seriously injured as a result of drug trials that went wrong at Northwick Park Hospital, in London, last year was "a tragedy and a disaster". He said rules had now been tightened to prevent a repeat of the incident. The centre was opened by Emeritus Professor Wilson Horne, a former Newcastle University professor whose success in developing diagnostic kits primarily used in cancer detection made Novocastria Laboratories, in Newcastle, a world-beating company that was subsequently sold to the US Danaher Corporation.
A spokeswoman for Newcastle University said Prof Horne's generosity had enabled the unit to be developed.
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