A BID to ensure the North-East remains at the forefront of cancer treatment was kick started today (THURSDAY DECEMBER 13) by Sir John Hall.

The property developer and former Newcastle United owner, accompanied by his wife Lady Mae, presented a cheque for £50,000 to set the ball rolling on phase two of the Charlie Bear for Cancer Care’s cyber-surgery fundraising appeal.

A total of £3.2m has already been raised to meet the cost of cutting edge equipment for the Northern Centre for Cancer Care, in Newcastle.

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But a further £1m target has been set to ensure best use is made of the stereotactic radiotherapy equipment, after it is installed at the centre, at the Freeman Hospital, in March.

Charlie Bear was the mascot adopted when the centre was launched and he has been brought back to prominence to help the cyber-surgery appeal.

Sir John, who has received treatment at the centre since being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010, is patron of Charlie Bear for Cancer Care fund.

He made the cheque presentation at County Hall, Durham, to start the latest £1m appeal, which has the backing of local authorities throughout the region, initiated by Durham County Council.

It comes a fortnight after the initial £3.2m funding target, to pay for the equipment, was reached, with support across the region, including £850,000 from the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

The cyber-surgery service, due to be in use by next autumn, will be the first of its kind in the UK outside London.

It will treat children and adults suffering brain, lung, pancreas, prostate, head and neck, liver and spinal tumours, both malignant and benign, some of which are otherwise inoperable.

Sir John Hall said: “The recent announcement that cyber surgery is coming to our region is absolutely fantastic and we should be incredibly proud.

“This will change the face of cancer treatment throughout the whole region.

“It has only been made possible by the amazing generosity of ordinary people across the North-East and Cumbria.

“It’s just the beginning of the fundraising story.

“We need to keep on raising more money to develop this wonderful cancer service and ensure we remain at the cutting edge of cancer treatment in the country.”

Dr Ian Pedley, consultant clinical oncologist at the centre, said: “We want to make sure that as we are buying a Bentley we keep it as a Bentley and don’t run it as a Ford Mondeo.”

Anyone wishing to make a donation to the appeal should contact the charity office on 0191-223 1434.