The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Leeds Children’s Hospital and University of Leeds launch £5 million research centre supported by charity funding to improve outcomes for poorly children across the UK

6 March 2023

Leeds Children’s Hospital and the University of Leeds are delighted to announce the launch of the CHORAL (Children’s Health Outcomes Research at Leeds) Research Centre. This £5 million research partnership, delivered over five years, will be the biggest children’s research programme ever undertaken by the hospital. 

The brand-new CHORAL Research Centre has been made possible thanks to a pioneering partnership between Leeds Hospitals Charity, the charity partner of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, and the Faculty of Medicine and Health at the University of Leeds.  

Leeds Hospitals Charity is providing £2.6 million in initial funding to support vital new research projects that will be undertaken at the centre, joining forces with the University of Leeds who are also investing £2.4 million to help kickstart the research, and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust who have contributed £500,000.  

Severe childhood illnesses, including mental health problems, are affecting an increasing number of children and young people, and this rate has worsened because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

There will be three multi-disciplinary groups set up to tackle key areas where research can improve outcomes for young patients, including childhood cancer, children’s mental health and life-threatening illnesses.  

Leeds has already made significant contributions to improved clinical outcomes from childhood illness in numerous areas including children’s cancer, cystic fibrosis, diabetes and neuromuscular disorders.  

Leeds Children’s Hospital is at the forefront of research and clinical trials thanks to the National Institute for Health and Care (NIHR) Research Leeds Clinical Research Facility, funded by Leeds Hospitals Charity. There are currently more than 1,000 children involved in over 100 active clinical trials at the Clinical Research Facility.  

CHORAL will enable more children to contribute to and benefit from clinical trials.  

Six-year-old Dulcie, from Telford, was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma in December 2021. Neuroblastoma is a rare and aggressive childhood cancer that has a 40-50% chance of long-term survival at diagnosis.   

The family were referred to Leeds Children’s Hospital for specialist treatment, where Dulcie was the first child in the UK to participate in a pioneering new drug trial.   

Debbie O’Kelly, Dulcie’s mum told us how the research trials Dulcie is involved in have given her family hope: 

“We’re incredibly grateful that Dulcie has been given the opportunity to take part in ground-breaking research trials as part of her treatment. As a family, this also gives us hope for the future that there’s a chance for Dulcie to get better and lead a full, happy life, which is what every mother wants for their child.” 

Cancer treatment is scary for any child, but Dulcie loves the staff at the hospital who help her and understands why it’s important. Dulcie said: 

“I don’t really like the treatment, but I love seeing the doctors and nurses at the hospital and I know it’s helping me kick cancers butt! When my mummy told me I was going to be part of the trial I said, “I’m helping other children with cancer aren’t I, mummy?” 

Adam Glaser, Professor of Paediatric Oncology in the University of Leeds’ School of Medicine, and Honorary Consultant at Leeds Children’s Hospital has been appointed Director of the CHORAL Research Centre.  

Professor Glaser will oversee the research alongside Professor Richard Feltbower, Dr Simon Pini, from the University of Leeds’ School of Medicine, and Dr Carole Burnett, Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Leeds’s Institute of Medical Research (LIMR).  

Professor Glaser said:  

“I am incredibly excited to launch the CHORAL Research programme here in Leeds. This is a fantastic opportunity to establish a world-leading research centre in the city, led by Leeds Children’s Hospital. Through a clear focus on child health, the CHORAL team will deliver truly transformative research to improve the lives of future generations in Yorkshire, and beyond.  

This collaborative research will bring together clinicians, scientists and academics and we hope that this multi-faceted approach will improve the care we can provide and help us tailor treatment to prevent illness and improve outcomes for young patients like Dulcie.” 

Through a data-driven approach, CHORAL aims to tackle the health inequalities children and their families can face. As the impact of these illnesses mean there are barriers to children’s learning and development, and their life outcomes.  

There will be three multi-disciplinary groups set up to tackle key areas where research can improve outcomes for young patients, including childhood cancer, children’s mental health and life-threatening illnesses.  

Esther Wakeman, Chief Executive of Leeds Hospitals Charity said: 

“We’re delighted that donations and Gifts in Wills have enabled us to support this worthwhile research project that will unlock new opportunities and benefit so many young people and their families. As a charity, we’re committed to reducing health inequalities in Leeds and investing in the treatment of rare diseases, both of which will be addressed through this ground-breaking research centre at Leeds Children’s Hospital.” 

It is expected that the first patients will be invited to take part in trials at the new “without walls” CHORAL Research Centre from late 2023. 

You can find out more about CHORAL at https://www.leedshospitalscharity.org.uk/choralresearch