How Sir Bobby’s legacy lives on in cancer charity
DURING the latter part of his life, Sir Bobby Robson worked hard towards a new goal of fighting cancer through his charity. Health Reporter HELEN RAE spoke to the oncologist who he helped set up a pioneering cancer trials research centre.
From that moment the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation was born and a fundraising target of £500,000 was set to help fund the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre, though the 76-year-old was not always comfortable in putting his name to the projects.
Prof Plummer, now director of the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre, said: “He was slightly embarrassed about the fact his name was going to be put to the foundation and unit. He was a lovely man and in a sense very humble. He would have been amazed at the outpouring of grief.
“He kept saying to me ‘we’re going to do our best but I don’t know if we can make much money for you’. He was really worried that they wouldn’t be able to make the fundraising target.”
In just seven weeks, the target of half a million pounds was raised.
And in February 2009, Sir Bobby, who was fighting cancer for the fifth time, officially unveiled the new cancer trials research centre alongside England boss Fabio Capello and football legends Alan Shearer and Peter Beardsley.
The centre was constructed by the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and equipped by the foundation. Its specialist staff are funded through Newcastle University, the NHS Trust, the Foundation and Cancer Research UK.
It gives North East cancer patients access to clinical trials of new drugs including early trials, which are just starting to be used in people, as well as those which are further on in development and being compared to standard treatments for effectiveness.
Prof Plummer said: “Sir Bobby always said he would like the research centre to be his lasting legacy. He felt the foundation was for the North East and that it would help other cancer patients in the region, both in treatment and in support for children’s areas.
“He was very keen that it would take things forward but would be North East-based because of his love of the region. It is very exciting to have such a good unit in Newcastle for the North East. It has been incredibly well supported and still is.
“We have had some individual breakthroughs because of the work I do, and what Sir Bobby was involved with.
“It’s the early-phase stuff with drugs where they’ve shown promise in lab work in cancer cells in a dish, but we need to start using them in patients.”