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Last Updated: Monday, 13 March 2006, 07:34 GMT
Treatment starting at cancer unit
The new NI cancer unit
The new cancer unit is based at Belfast City Hospital
A new regional cancer centre in Belfast is to begin treating patients on Monday.

The 60m facility at the City Hospital will provide an integrated approach to treating and diagnosing cancers.

Professor Paddy Johnson said it was hoped the centre would help increase survival rates in Northern Ireland.

"What this is about is curative cancer care - providing a very high quality care centre and the optimal chance of being cured," he said.

Patients would be able to be treated in an "integrated way that really wasn't available before", he said.

"The types of things we will be able to do at this centre, both currently and moving forward, will be giving treatments that are at the front edge of care," he said.

"In other words pioneering type treatments, vaccines, gene therapy, new drugs where the patients here really have options that were not really available before."

The centre - given the go-ahead in July 2002 by the Stormont executive - was officially handed over to Belfast City Hospital in December.

When the centre got the green light, the then health minister Bairbre de Brun said it would be a "centre of excellence" to rival Europe's best.

She said it would establish itself as a world leader in patient care, research and teaching.

Next Monday will see the closure of Belvoir Park Hospital, previously the province's main cancer centre.

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