We are a catalytic fundraising organisation investing in innovative and early-stage work that lays the foundations for life-changing and lifesaving research. Research is key to finding better ways of diagnosing and treating conditions, and improving the technology and equipment used.
Our support for the Royal Free London research community ranges from our small grants programme and PhD schemes through to delivering major capital funding appeals such as the Pears Building, a triumphant partnership of philanthropy and clinical excellence.
Our support for early-stage research on the Royal Free London campus not only increases the likelihood of translational research – with patients benefitting quickly from the application of research findings – it means our researchers have a strong evidence base when applying for major funding.
“The pump-prime funding facilitated by the charity enabled us to make a compelling case to the NIHR which was rewarded with substantive funding for five years. This is a great example of how investment from the charity can leverage significant returns.”
Tim Meyer, Director, RFL Clinical Research Facility
The Pears Building
The Pears Building is a world-class research centre bringing together patients, academic clinicians, and clinical trials specialists to develop revolutionary treatments and therapies for patients.
Opened in 2021, the £60 million structure is home to UCL’s Institute of Immunity and Transplantation, where scientists perform patient-focused research to develop better treatments for diseases such as cancer, diabetes, HIV and hepatitis, as well as new therapies to stop the rejection of transplants.
The delivery of the Pears Building project, from concept to construction, was made possible thanks to the extraordinary generosity of our supporters. The building was named in recognition of the support of the Pears Foundation and the Pears family.
Royal Free London Clinical Research Facility
The clinical research facility (CRF) is a purpose-built clinical space used in the early stages of clinical research – from testing a new treatment in a patient for the first time through to early safety and efficacy trials.
The CRF is playing a crucial role in helping us to understand more about conditions including cardiovascular disease, leukaemia and liver disease and translating that work at speed into treatments for patients.
We are a key delivery partner for the CRF having enabled pump prime funding to employ core staff and get the facility up and running.
The CRF can deliver early-phase, complex and high-risk experimental studies in healthy adults or those with acute, complex, and long-term conditions. These studies range from First in Human (FIH) to late-phase trials with an experimental medicine component that requires specialist facilities or support.
The Charles Wolfson Centre for Reconstructive Surgery
The Charles Wolfson Centre for Reconstructive Surgery develops innovative therapies and technology to improve the quality of life of people affected by injuries and disease who require reconstructive surgery. It is a joint project between the Royal Free Hospital and UCL.
We delivered a £3.7m fundraising campaign to secure the set-up and initial five-year work of the centre. The centre’s name pays tribute to the generous £1.25m donation from The Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust; donations from charitable trusts and foundations, and individual donors covered the remaining costs.
Find out more about the centre Charles Wolfson Centre for Reconstructive Surgery – Royal Free Charity
Other areas of research
Amyloidosis is a rare disease caused by the build-up of one or other of the body’s own proteins in the form of insoluble abnormal fibres, called amyloid fibrils. The amyloid deposits progressively damage the structure and function of the affected parts of the body and can lead to life-threatening organ failure.
The UK NHS National Amyloidosis Centre at the Royal Free Hospital is the only centre in the UK specialising in amyloidosis and one of the world’s leading centres for amyloid research.
You can support this research by making a donation or through fundraising – set up your fundraising page to support Amyloidosis Research here.
Read more about Amyloidosis Research
The PEM (Positron Emission Mammography) machine, purchased thanks to a generous donor makes earlier detection of breast cancer easier. The PEM is particularly useful in younger patients with dense breasts, when it is often harder to detect cancer using a mammogram. The PEM is also more comfortable for patients as there is no breast compression involved; the patient just has to lie face down.
It is a useful diagnostic tool. Patients who are screened using the PEM are also helping with high quality clinical research and the data and results are analysed which help improve diagnosis and treatment for future patients.
The Royal Free London’s pioneering ambulatory lung biopsy service is led by Dr Sam Hare, Consultant Chest Radiologist. This innovative biopsy method, hailed as a gamechanger for lung cancer, won the inaugural NHS Innovation Challenge Prize for Cancer Care in 2016. This award highlighted unparalleled early lung cancer diagnosis and improved patient experience. The service, publicised in the Times and BBC News, has empowered patients and allowed access to newer lung cancer therapies, even in more complex patients who are often declined lung biopsy at other institutions.
The aim of the lung cancer FALCON (Fight Against Lung Cancer is On) fund is to allow all NHS patients access to earlier lung cancer diagnosis.
Haemophilia refers to a group of hereditary blood disorders that prevent the body from properly controlling blood clotting or coagulation. Patients with these blood disorders can experience a wide range of haemophilia symptoms, such as vitamin deficiencies and prolonged bleeding. Through research treatment the survival rate of patients has transformed from 10yrs to a normal life expectancy.
The Katharine Dormandy Haemophilia and Thrombosis Centre is a comprehensive care centre providing a range of services for patients with haemophilia, von Willebrand’s disease, other inherited coagulation factor deficiencies and inherited platelet disorders.
Research into HIV is creating breakthrough treatments which have transformed the lives of HIV diagnosed patients over recent years. Through the Ian Charleson Day Centre (ICDC) patients receive support and testing while advanced research translates into advanced diagnosis and care.
Over 3,000 patients regularly attend the ICDC. The centre runs specialist consultant-led clinics, including in viral hepatitis, TB (tuberculosis), cardiology, renal disease, neurology, rheumatology, chronic fatigue, lipid disorders, AIN (anal intraepithelial neoplasia), gynaecology and psychiatry.
The centre has access to a range of clinical trials including those for new antivirals, primary HIV infections and questionnaire based studies with a dedicated research team.
Myeloma is a cancer that affects cells in the bone marrow called plasma cells. As the cancerous plasma cells fill the bone marrow, the body is not able to make enough normal blood cells. This can lead to anaemia, bleeding problems and infections.
Through the support of the Royal Free Charity, Dr Andrea Knight is working in collaboration with a team from the Czech Myeloma Group in Brno, analysing bone marrow samples from patients at different stages of Multiple Myeloma. This is ground-breaking research into this disease, which remains incurable, and it is hoped that the study will lead to a novel tumour immunotherapy.
The myeloma practice at the Royal Free Hospital sees approximately 30 newly diagnosed patients each year and follows over 100 patients through treatment at any one time.
Conventional transplantation cannot meet the demand for replacing failing organs, a growing problem with the increasing age of the population. The lack of an ideal scaffold is what limits the clinical success being translated into routine treatments for thousands of patients with severe disorders of the ear, nose, throat and face. Achieving this goal would improve the length and quality of life for many patients.
Current work in a new generation of scaffolds for tissue engineering using biological-polymer composites is centered on using nanocomposite materials. Working with nanoparticles requires a state-of-the-art electron microscope (ESEM) which the team was able to purchase with a grant from the Royal Free Charity. This microscope is essential for research and the development of organs within a clinical setting using materials and biological cells and/or tissue. For the development of organs, the team use scaffolds and stem cells in bioreactors and the ESEM is the only method of seeing how the stem cells are incorporated into the scaffold material.
Rapid Diagnostic Pathway Project (Started November 2014)
This UCL project is led by Dr Steve Pereira and sponsored by charitable funds, including Pancreatic Cancer UK, Gemma Fund, Nicki’s Smile as well our charity fund Fiorina. Its aims are to identify patients with early pancreatic cancer by testing symptomatic “high risk” patients with a panel of blood biomarkers. Validation of a diagnostic biomarkers panel combined with “symptoms tool” for early detection of pancreatic cancer could potentially save hundreds of lives in the UK every year.
Research findings so far into identifying early biomarkers for pancreatic cancer are promising. The project has also found that some early symptoms which patients have reported are often not recognised as possible pancreatic cancer in its early stages. The study aims to adopt these promising biomarkers for pancreatic cancer into routine clinical practice as well as alternative diagnostic strategies.
Our aim is to reduce the delay between the appearance of symptoms and a confirmed diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. This project brings together subject experts from London and Liverpool to join the dots between symptoms, early markers of the disease and access to treatment. We should be able to identify and treat patients quickly and more efficiently to give them the best chance against pancreatic cancer.
Our findings will also provide primary care physicians (such as GPs) with a rapid diagnostic pathway for patients with pancreatic cancer.
Update on scleroderma research April 2019
– with grateful thanks to the Milan family for their fundraising
Systemic sclerosis remains an enormous challenge and the wonderful commitment and generosity of the Milan family, their friends and supporters, has really made a difference. We have already been able to work on important new projects but the additional funds that have been raised will now enable substantially more than was expected and our work will continue. The funds raised by the Milan family and friends have directly helped three specific projects.
First, our efforts to identify better ways of identifying earlier the patients with scleroderma most at risk of severe internal organ complications so they can be treated earlier. Second, to understand how cases can be selected better for stem cell transplant and to learn from and contribute to emerging research from other international centres about mechanisms by which stem cell transplant works. Third, we have been able to start new projects linked to understanding how chemicals released by damaged cells might activate fibroblasts and could be targets for future therapy.
Earlier identification of patients at risk of severe complications:
We have been able to use support to underpin some of the critical work on trying to identify better cases at risk of major complications at a stage when we can initiate treatment. We have been able to link antibodies and skin to identify new subsets and potentially improve clinical trial design. This has included integrating skin and blood tests that we routinely obtain to have new ways of finding cases at high or low risk of lung and heart disease. Ultimately, this may allow earlier identification of cases requiring emerging treatments and allow prevention approaches rather than just waiting for major complications to develop and then offering treatment.
Better understanding of stem cell transplantation in scleroderma:
We have been able to carefully review our growing experience of stem cell transplant to understand how the cases that improve may have been modified. We have been able to allocate a clinical fellow to work part time on this so that we can share our experience with the broader rheumatology community. This includes a presentation of two cases at the forthcoming British Society for Rheumatology Conference in Birmingham.
In the future we plan to use links with the UCL Institute of Immunity to better understand the immune cell changes occurring after therapies for SSc, including stem cell transplant. We have established a potential future collaboration with Canadian scleroderma exerts to hopefully study up to 50 cases in the future because international collaboration is essential.
Linking cell damage to fibrosis – new concepts about the cause of scleroderma:
The donated funds have helped cover the relatively modest costs of small pilot studies looking at the possible factors underpinning the link between fibroblast activation and tissue damage that we think may underlie progression of fibrosis in the skin and lungs. We have been able to undertake some new work that hopefully will allow us to secure a larger research grant to support laboratory studies.
Together, this is allowing us to really understand how to implement the progress in SSc as ongoing trials are completed and we expect that more will be possible over coming months.
Professor Christopher Denton, Royal Free Hospital and UCL Division of Medicine
Neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) are rare. They develop from cells of the neuroendocrine system, which are found in organs including the stomach, bowel and lungs. NETs are more common in people aged over 60. Some NETs may be called carcinoid tumours.
Symptoms depend on where in the body the NET is, but can include:
- tummy pain
- changes in bowel habits
- shortness of breath
- loss of appetite
- weight loss.
NET Unit at the Royal Free Hospital
The neuroendocrine tumour (NET) unit at the Royal Free Hospital has an international reputation for the management of neuroendocrine tumour patients. In 2010 it was the first UK centre to be awarded European Centre of Excellence. It currently receives 12-20 new referrals per month (144-240 per year) and has an active patient cohort of over 1,500 patients. It receives referrals from across the UK as well as from abroad. It is the designated centre for NETs within the North London Cancer Network.
The aim of the Royal Free Hospital neuroendocrine tumour group is to provide optimal management for patients with neuroendocrine tumours, taking into account how the tumour affects each individual. We work within a multidisciplinary team and aim to enhance the prospects for treatment by a combination of clinical and laboratory research.
Read more about the current research and options.