Dr Tony Dhillon, a medical oncologist at Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust, has received more than £500,000 to bring his clinical trial that is investigating bowel cancer to patients in Australia.

The study, which looks at whether combining immunotherapy with chemotherapy can improve survival rates, is already open at more than 20 centres across the UK. Only 15 percent of patients with colorectal cancer are suitable to take part in the trial so expanding it to Australia is an opportunity to increase recruitment.

Dr Dhillon hopes that the findings could change the way patients with colorectal cancer are treated and ultimately increase the chance of being cured to 95 percent. Immunotherapy has been hailed as the new era of cancer treatment that works by teaching the body’s own immune system to hunt out and attack tumours.

He said: “Harnessing the immune system to tackle cancer is one of the most exciting areas in cancer research at the moment.”

The potential significance of this trial was recognised by experts at the world’s largest cancer conference in Chicago last year.

“Ultimately the findings of this research should help cancer patients and potentially change the way that bowel cancer is treated in this particular sub-group of patients,” said Dr Dhillon.

The grant comes from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) that provides financial assistance to support health and medical research and innovation, with the objective of improving the health and wellbeing of Australians. Thanks to the grant Dr Dhillon’s study will now open in six centres across Australia in collaboration with the University of Sydney.

Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust CEO Louise Stead added: “Research, development and innovation is part of our DNA and this would not be possible were it not for our exceptional people, like Dr Dhillon, who are committed to developing better treatments and increasing our understanding of disease. I would like to thank our staff for their determination to advance healthcare and to our patients for their willingness to help us with this endeavour.”