PATIENTS at a North-East hospital have become the first in the world to be treated with a potentially revolutionary new drug designed to combat every type of cancer.

The drug trial is underway at the Northern Institute of Cancer Research at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.

The first of 63 patients with different cancers have started treatment with the experimental new drug - called AZD3965 - at the hospital's Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre.

Successfully tested in the lab and on animals, it is the first time the drug has been given to humans.

Professor Ruth Plummer, a Cancer Research UK clinician at Newcastle University, who is heading the trial, said: "I'm excited to open this trial of a completely new type of cancer treatment, which continues our drive for the most effective new treatments to give patients the best chance of surviving this dreadful disease.

"It's heartbreaking for cancer patients when the drugs have stopped working and they have run out of options. But we hope new drugs will be able to save their lives in the future."

Prof Plummer was Sir Bobby Robson's oncologist during his long and ultimately unsuccessful battle against cancer.

Since its launch five years ago The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation has raised more than £5m to help Newcastle-based scientists fight cancer.

Initially the new drug will only be offered to patients at the Newcastle centre but a second trial site will be announced shortly.

Developed by the drug company, Astra Zeneca, AZD3965 is being trialled by Cancer Research UK's National Institute of Health Research Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre.

Experts from the charity's Drug Development Office (DDO) have described the trial as an "exciting, first in class, first in man, study."

The new drug targets monocarboxylate transporter 1, (known as MCT1) which is essential in the growth of cancer cells.

Blocking this transporter limits cancer cells' ability to generate energy and decreases their capacity to survive.

Susan Galbraith, head of the oncology innovative medicines unit at AstraZeneca, said: "Targeting tumour cell metabolism represents a novel and exciting approach to potentially treat cancer."

The drug has been developed through Cancer Research UK's Clinical Development Partnerships (CDP) scheme - set up to develop promising anti-cancer agents which pharmaceutical companies do not have the funds to take any further.

Dr Nigel Blackburn, director of drug development at the DDO, said: "We're delighted to open this clinical trial of such a promising new drug which cuts off the energy supply to tumour cells and kills them.

"This is the fifth drug from our CDP programme to reach clinical trials - without the scheme it simply might not have been possible to provide this drug to patients.

"We'll continue to build on these successes to accelerate the development of further treatments though new trials of drugs which otherwise may not have reached patients for many years."