Children and young people living with cancer from across the West Midlands, Oxfordshire and parts of Southern England will now benefit from improved genetic testing, thanks to a seven-figure donation to Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity from Children with Cancer UK, in partnership with Kwik-Fit.

Home to one of the largest children’s cancer centres in the UK, Birmingham Children’s Hospital cares for over 200 patients with cancer, leukaemia and brain tumours every year, from the West Midlands and beyond.

Genomic testing for patients diagnosed with cancer is incredibly important and over the last decade, large scale sequencing projects have identified pertinent DNA changes, which have enabled scientists to develop new and improved cancer drugs and treatments to specifically target these variations.

Sequencing all possible DNA changes in a single test gives scientists the best possible chance of detecting the genetic changes driving a child’s cancer; and knowing the genetic makeup of a child or young person’s cancer, or tumour, allows clinicians to offer a more tailored treatment.

Targeted therapies have improved the number and different types of treatment offered to children and young people, aimed at saving more lives and improving the quality of life for patients living with cancer.

The UK’s largest genetics laboratory, the West Midlands Regional Genetics Laboratory, based at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, provides cancer genetic services for patients across the West Midlands, Oxfordshire and parts of Southern England, covering a population of 12million.

Now a donation of just over £1million to Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity has allowed the laboratory to purchase a high-throughput next generation sequencing platform.  This investment is possible thanks to the incredible fundraising efforts of Kwik-Fit’s staff, customers and suppliers who raised the substantial sum after Kwik-Fit employees chose Children with Cancer UK as the company’s national charity partner.

The NovaSeq 6000 is a state-of-the-art piece of DNA sequencing equipment which has enabled the rapid expansion of cancer genetic testing at the West Midlands Regional Genetics Laboratory.

Initial forecasts provided by NHS England and NHS Trusts across the West Midlands, Oxfordshire and parts of Southern England suggest that approximately 560 children and young people per year could benefit from large cancer panel genetic testing following the installation of the NovaSeq.

The significant gift also allowed for the refurbishment of the laboratory in which the NovaSeq will sit.

The Chairman of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust and its Charity, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, former Medical Director of the NHS in England, said: “The NovaSeq 6000 has dramatically enhanced our ability to identify diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers for childhood and young people’s cancers, thereby enabling our expert scientists and doctors to quickly optimise and develop more-effective and less-toxic treatments for children and young people with cancer.

“We’re incredibly thankful to Children with Cancer UK and all the employees at Kwik-Fit for enabling us to expand our cancer genetic testing capability in this way. It really will make a difference to thousands of families living with a cancer diagnosis.”

A long-term supporter of Birmingham Children’s Hospital this is Children with Cancer UK’s, the charity dedicated to the fight against childhood cancer, second £1million donation to the hospital’s charity. The first helped ensure the opening of a brand new Children’s Cancer Centre in 2018.

Children with Cancer UK Trustee, Nick Goulden, said: “We are delighted the new NovaSeq 6000 has been installed at the West Midlands Regional Genetics Laboratory, ready to serve its young cancer patients across the region. By offering personalised treatments through genetic sequencing, it’s another step towards our ultimate goal of saving the life of every child and young person diagnosed with cancer.

“We are also incredibly grateful for our year-long partnership with Kwik-Fit who shared this vision with us. Through their innovative and dedicated fundraising, Kwik-Fit employees raised £1million to make all of this possible and the legacy of our relationship will benefit the lives of thousands of children and young people in the future.“ 

Kwik-Fit’s partnership with Children with Cancer UK, which took place before the pandemic, saw its staff participate in events such as the Virgin Money London Marathon and the Simplyhealth Great North Run. It also organised various fundraising activities including bake sales, static bike challenges, car washes and sponsored walks. In addition, staff swapped cars for cycles as part of the company’s first-ever ‘Tour De Branch’ – a nationwide bike ride in which over 80 employees covered 2,500 miles between 120 Kwik-Fit centres. 

Mark Slade, managing director of Kwik-Fit, said: “We were delighted to hit our fundraising target of £1million which has enabled Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity to invest in such an important piece of equipment.

“I would like to congratulate and thank all of the Kwik-Fit staff for their tremendous effort and dedication and all our customers and partners who supported us – we would not have been able to achieve this target without them. We hope that this vital testing equipment will make a massive difference to the outcome for many families in the future.”

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