University of Nottingham establishes new £4 million ovarian cancer research centre

A new research centre to drive forward the latest advancements to tackle ovarian cancer is to be launched at the University of Nottingham.

The Nottingham Ovarian Cancer Research Centre (NOVARC) will be established within the university’s Biodiscovery Institute on University Park Campus, thanks to a significant donation by Nottingham alumnus Farid Suleman, his wife Jenna Suleman and their family in memory of Farid’s sister, Naaz Coker, who died of ovarian cancer in 2015.

Combined with this donation, significant further support from the university and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust will see total investment of more than £4 million into the new centre, which will bring together leading scientists and clinicians to develop innovative new approaches to diagnosing and treating the disease. Leading the new centre will be Srinivasan Madhusudan, Professor of Medical Oncology in the university’s School of Medicine.

Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer in women in the UK and the US and the fifth leading cause of death among women. Despite advances in surgery and chemotherapy, the overall outcomes for patients with ovarian cancer remains poor with over 4,000 patients – more than 50 per cent - dying from the condition each year in the UK.

The latest gift from the Suleman family builds on previous support they have given ovarian cancer research at the university to honour Naaz, including the Naaz Coker Ovarian Cancer Scholarship. Naaz spent two decades working in the NHS and held many leadership roles, ranging from Pharmaceutical and Clinical Director to General Manager of an acute hospital in London.

She dedicated more than 45 years of her life to helping others, working in the public and voluntary sectors. She was born in Tanzania and came to the UK to pursue her education and career. A successful and intelligent leader, she became Chair of St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust, as well as a trustee of The Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, C3 Collaborating for Health and the Clore Social Leadership Programme.

Naaz also wrote widely on leadership and management, racism and ethnic health inequalities in the NHS. She was generous with her skills and expertise, and held numerous voluntary appointments including Chair of the British Refugee Council, Chair of Shelter, a trustee and deputy Chair of the RSA. In November 2009, she was awarded the lifetime achievement award in the Lloyds TSB Jewel Awards for her contribution to public life.

Farid Suleman, who graduated from Nottingham with a degree in Production Engineering in 1974, said: “It is indeed a privilege to be associated with Professor Srinivasan Madhusudan and his outstanding team. I am also grateful for the continued commitment of the University and all its resources, which make this ground breaking research possible."

NOVARC will trial new approaches in treating ovarian cancer, including developing new agents that block DNA damage signalling and repair in ovarian tumours and expanding research into new therapies to prevent the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body.

It will also be investigating issues that some patients have with developing resistance to certain drugs and therapies which otherwise can offer improved outcomes for the disease, including platinum-based chemotherapy and emerging precision medicines such as PARP inhibitors.

The centre will bring together cancer scientists from the university’s Centre for Cancer Sciences in the Biodiscovery Institute with clinicians at Nottingham University Hospital Gynaecological Oncology Surgical Centre (NUHGOC) and Nottingham University Hospital Cancer Centre (NUHCC).


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