Breast Surgery

Greater opportunities for breast cancer research

28 October 2011

The University of Nottingham’s Academic Division of Breast Surgery has moved to the Royal Derby Hospital to work with its highly respected NHS Breast Surgery service.  

Twelve members of staff have moved to the Graduate Entry Medical School, which is part of the University of Nottingham at the Royal Derby Hospital. The research facility has a strong reputation across the globe, and is involved in collaborations with other units across Europe and North America.

Greater links with hospital departments – especially Breast Surgery, Pathology and Radiology – are being forged, with greater opportunity to carry out research that will help to turn the science into actual clinical benefits for patients.

The team is led by Professor John Robertson, Professor of Surgery at the University of Nottingham. Prof Robertson and Derby Hospitals’ chief executive Sue James have agreed three mutual goals which are aimed at forging a very productive partnership.

One is to work together for the benefit of patients, withadditional clinical capacity helping the Trust to respond to the increasing numbers of patients being referred for treatment. In addition to the routine treatment of breast cancer, the team will bring substantial expertise in the management of breast cancer in the elderly and complex breast cancers to the existing service.

Secondly, the partnership will help to extend the Trust’s teaching capabilities. The Division will contribute to undergraduate and post graduate medical teaching, and will also organise conferences and post graduate meetings with national and international breast cancer experts at Derby.

Thirdly, the partnership will also help the Trust develop its research capabilities. The Academic Division will contribute substantially to the Trust’s clinical trials work in breast cancer (and possibly other cancer areas), and will introduce new research into the Trust, including on clinical endocrine therapy (the treatment of disease using hormones). This work will happen in partnership with clinical colleagues in the hospital’s breast multi-disciplinary team.

Professor Robertson said: “The opportunities for the types of research in Derby are very strong. I’ve known colleagues here for many years and I’m very much looking forward to working more closely with them. There are many opportunities for development and learning. 

“A good clinical service and academic research working together increases the profile and standing of both elements, and helps to attract a higher calibre of staff. The Academic Division adds more value to an already highly respected and professional clinical team in the Breast Unit.

“There are opportunities for people in Derby to be involved in clinical trials – we’ll be advertising for participants as appropriate. When drugs become available there is the potential for cancer patients to reap the early benefits.” 

It is anticipated that the Academic Division will establish a number of new clinical trials in Derby, resulting in a substantial increase in the overall numbers of breast cancer patients enrolled onto research studies.

Research will be focused on several key areas. One area will look at how certain cancers grow, how drugs work and how cancers develop resistance to those drugs. Work will be carried out in the laboratory through patient trials and from there into use in medical practice. Another area will look at blood markers (substances that can be found in blood when cancer is present) in all types of solid cancers, including lung and colon cancer. The aim is to understand as much as we can to allow for as early detection as possible. The research will look at the body’s production of antibodies; the body makes lots of antibodies to fight what is usually a small cancer growth and studies will look at the best ways of detection.   

There will also be research into breast cancer in older women who may have other medical conditions. The research looks at how the cancer could be managed differently in those people.

Mark Sibbering, lead breast surgeon at the Royal Derby Hospital’s Breast Unit, said: “The Derby Breast Team is delighted that the Academic Division of Breast Surgery of the University of Nottingham has relocated to Derby to work alongside our clinical service. We already believe that we are able to offer Derby patients an excellent standard of care, and this can only be improved by the addition of a major breast cancer research team.”


For further information, please contact:

Paul Widdowfield
Communications Manager
Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust   
01332 786947

Notes to editors:

Professor Robertson biography:

* He has been a member of the National Executive of the British Association of Surgical Oncology and is currently a member of the National Committee of the Association of Breast Surgeons in the UK. He has been principal investigator (PI) on a number of national and international clinical trials, and is a member of a number of scientific research groups including the British Breast Group and is a member of the steering committee of the Early Breast Cancer Trails Collaborative Group.

He has worked on a number of journal editorial boards and in 1998 became Editor-in-Chief of Breast Cancer Online, dedicated to providing information and education to professionals working in the field of breast cancer.  He has two major research interests. The first of these is in endocrine therapy. He is particularly interested in the interaction between tumour biology and endocrine agents. The second area is the use of blood tumour markers in cancer, particularly as an aid to screening.

Posted on Friday 28th October 2011

Breast Surgery

The University of Nottingham
Royal Derby Hospital
Uttoxeter Road, Derby, DE22 3DT

telephone: +44 (0) 1332 724622