Revealed: £220m vision for Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital
A £220million Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital is in the pipeline.
Detailed plans have been drawn up and the Cambridge Independent understands the government is reviewing them.
The University of Cambridge has established a unique partnership with Cambridge University Hospitals, and has agreed to help raise £50million towards the hospital, which would be built on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.
It would serve all cancer patients who would currently be treated on the Addenbrooke’s site, except children. They would be cared for at the new children’s hospital, to which the government committed £100million last year.
Professor Richard Gilbertson, director of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre, and head of the university Department of Oncology, told the Cambridge Independent: “Patients will get the best possible care in an NHS setting, but they will also benefit from the great science that is ongoing.
“As things are invented in Cambridge, they are likely to be the first to access and benefit from them, both in terms of early detection as well as integrating investigations and the first-in-human treatments.”
An outline business case for the hospital has been approved by Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust board and passed to the government.
If approved, the seven-floor building could take five years to plan and build.
“I would be very disappointed if we don’t have it in the next 10 years,” said Prof Gilbertson.
The hospital would be built on a parcel of land between the Addenbrooke’s Treatment Centre and the Frank Lee Centre, with its main entrance off Keith Day Road.
It would lie on the other side of Robinson Way from the new headquarters and R&D centre of biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.
It would feature up to 77 beds – 24 in haematology, 28 in oncology, 16 for bone marrow transplants plus nine in a teenage and young adults’ cancer unit, although Prof Gilbertson stressed that discussion was ongoing on whether it would be better to site these in the new children’s hospital.
“There are three research components,” said Prof Gilbertson. “There would be a precision cancer research centre which would integrate physics, chemistry, engineering and mathematics towards better patient care and decision-making.
“We would have early cancer detection – and that’s probably one of the best opportunities we have to save lives by bringing forward the diagnosis as early as possible. And again that would integrate physics, chemistry, engineering and mathematics.
“Probably our leading programme is in breast cancer: we already have the world’s first precision breast cancer programme and this will be embedded within the new hospital.
“We have held extensive consultations with patient groups about the facilities to include, and the detail of the design. The clinical components will be inpatients’ and outpatients’ facilities, along with a chemotherapy unit and increased opportunities for patients in clinical trials. There is going to be a general oncology ward, a haematology ward and a bone marrow transplant ward.”
In addition, there would be a diagnostics unit, acute assessment unit and pharmacy.
The building would effectively be 80 per cent an NHS facility and 20 per cent a university facility, but the emphasis will be on seamless integration.
“The things that won’t be in the building will be surgery – we don’t plan to have theatres in there because they are in the existing hospital – and also radiotherapy, because that already exists and involves big, multi-million pound kit and there is no point in reproducing that,” explained Prof Gilbertson.
The government is understood to be considering funding for the hospital, and in addition to the university commitment, is working with Cambridge University Hospitals on partnerships with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, Cancer Research UK, Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust and other charities, to fund the balance.
Prof Gilbertson said there were three main drivers for the hospital.
“The first is always patients. If you look at Addenbrooke’s, you get fantastic results and patients get amazing treatment. But Addenbrooke’s is a crumbling 60s general hospital where you get world-class care,” he said.
“But it’s not just about a shiny new building. We are out of space. Cambridge is one of the fastest growing cities and the population is ageing. We know the incidence of cancer is going to triple over the next 30 years just because the patient population is ageing.
“The second reason is partly driven by the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy. If you look at this as the place with the largest biomedical campus in the UK, and probably Europe, we are in the best position to capitalise on that.
“The third reason is about staff retention. Cancer is a growing field and Cambridge does very well in competing with any other centres. But if you are a clinician and you can work anywhere in the world, and you are faced with fantastic facilities in New York or San Francisco, you might start to think about the choice.”
Patrick Maxwell, regius professor of physic at the University of Cambridge, said: “Richard and his colleagues have developed a really exciting vision for this proposed new hospital which will be ideally placed to change the way we prevent, detect and treat cancer.”
Cambridge project management consultancy Northmores was commissioned to study the best use of the site, and London architecture firm NBBJ has drawn up plans offering plenty of natural light and connection to the outdoors for patients undergoing treatment. This includes balcony areas and a café, along with a “welcoming and reassuring” reception.
The hospital would feature seven floors of clinical and research space, rooftop plant and a tunnel connecting to the main hospital.
Like the nearby AstraZeneca building, the 24,500 square metre hospital would have a courtyard at its heart.
The idea of a cancer research hospital for Cambridge has been discussed for more than a decade.
But today, amid the rapid progress of Cambridge Biomedical Campus, there is at last some real momentum behind the scheme.
More by this authorPaul Brackley