Sir Chris Hoy opens new research facility to help sick kids

The unit will accelerate work to improve treatment for children with leukaemia, asthma, cystic fibrosis and other conditions.

During his visit, Sir Chris met children and families affected by these diseases. The children are taking part in ongoing research at the hospital, which has a strong relationship with the University of Edinburgh in pioneering research to improve the lives of sick children. 

The Children’s Clinical Research Facility has been made possible thanks to a donation of £67,000 from the Sick Kids Friends Foundation, a £50,000 investment from The University of Edinburgh, and ongoing funding worth in excess of £20,000 a year from NHS Lothian’s Research and Development Fund.

 

Sir Chris said:

“I am delighted to have been asked to open this important new facility which will benefit children today and well into the future.  The Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh has a strong reputation for providing world class paediatric care and research and this new unit will help deliver the kind of breakthroughs that will make a massive difference to lives of children and families now and in the future.”

Sir Chris is a long time supporter of the Sick Kids Friends Foundation.  He added:

“I would like to pay tribute to the efforts of the Sick Kids Friends Foundation in helping to make this all possible.  It is a wonderful example of how the wider community can support the work of our doctors, nurses and researchers looking at making things better.”

The new purpose-built suite of clinical rooms is part of the existing university accommodation at the hospital, with easy access to the main wards and emergency facilities to ensure patient safety.

Previous research has taken place in the hospital’s open wards, but the new two-bedded facility and consulting room will ensure that children taking part in trials are seen in a welcoming and private environment.

Professor Robert Minns from the University of Edinburgh, who has led the development of the unit, said:

“Clinical research is pivotal for advancing the way we treat patients and manage diseases. This unit will bring together all research projects involving children, in a dedicated area, with experienced staff and state of the art equipment, in a children’s hospital environment.”

Grant Macrae, Chair of the Sick Kids Friends Foundation said:

“This excellent new facility is a good example of how our fundraising directly helps sick children.  We hope clinical research goes from strength to strength with the aid of this new facility, adding to our knowledge and understanding about important childhood illnesses and supporting improved treatment. ”

Dr Charles Swainson, Medical Director of NHS Lothian, which runs the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, said:

“Developing tomorrow’s medicine today is absolutely part of the mission of doctors, nurses and other healthcare specialists and this new centre will further strengthen our partnership with the University of Edinburgh and the Sick Kids Friends Foundation as we all work to help sick children and young people. Good research facilities are absolutely crucial and this new unit will be a good forerunner for the new world-class hospital for children and young people opening in 2012 at Little France.”

The Royal Hospital for Sick Children is one of a small number of UK children’s hospitals involved in large scale research into conditions such as cystic fibrosis and other breathing disorders.  It is a centre of excellence in children’s cancer care and research, with leading Edinburgh consultant oncologist Dr Hamish Wallace also the clinical lead for the new national managed clinical network for paediatric cancer care.
The Royal Hospital for Sick Children made international headlines for the work of pioneering surgeon Gordon MacKinlay in developing keyhole surgery for infants and young people.

For more information, please contact:

Anna Smyth, Press and PR Office, the University of Edinburgh
Tel 0131 651 4400, 07791 355 886; Email anna.smyth@ed.ac.uk

Case study

Jordan McKinlay, 14, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis – a chronic lung disease – when he was two years old. He spent much of his childhood in hospital at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, as his medical team treated his various symptoms, which included acute coughing, numerous chest infections and digestive problems.

After 12 years of treatment, Jordan still suffers from severe coughing attacks and has difficulty maintaining a healthy body weight. As well as affecting the lungs, cystic fibrosis often makes it difficult for patients to digest fat, so Jordan takes 12 tablets with every meal and supplements his diet with a daily 3000-calorie treatment, which is fed directly into his stomach through a tube.

Jordan has regular courses of intravenous drugs, which are given through a vein in his arm, four times a day. Each programme lasts for three weeks at a time and is repeated every two months.

During the course of his illness Jordan has had two operations – the first, a gastrostomy, made an artificial opening so that his feeding tube could be placed directly into his stomach, and the second, a fundoplication, tightened his gullet to stop food rising back up his throat after swallowing.

“I’ve been keeping well recently,” says Jordan, who is in second year at Leith Academy, “but sometimes it is hard because people don’t know much about cystic fibrosis.  The other kids don’t always understand why I can’t play sports, so I always have to explain myself and that can be quite difficult.”

Jordan has recently volunteered to join a research study that will test the effectiveness of gene therapy in cystic fibrosis patients. After years of visiting the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, he is keen to get involved with the search for new treatments.

“I definitely believe that this could help people with cystic fibrosis,” he says. “Even if it doesn’t help me – and I know there is that chance – it’s important to try in case it helps someone else.”

Jordan’s mother, Julie Shanks, 41, is also enthusiastic about the potential of the new research unit.
 
“We felt that taking part in the research was a really important thing to do,” says Ms Shanks. “It may not help Jordan himself because his lungs have already been damaged, but in the long run if it leads to a treatment it could make a real difference to the lives of children in the future.

“Research is important for all diseases because it’s the only way we can find new treatments and cures. I’ve got another son who, although he doesn’t have cystic fibrosis himself, could carry the gene that causes it and pass it on to his children. If this research can help someone else down the line, it’s important for us to do what we can.”

22/04/2009