Cancer patients in Birmingham can now donate samples of their blood or tumour tissue to a national 'biobank' it has been announced.

Scientists, cancer specialists and patients at the National Cancer Research Institute conference, which is being held at the International Convention Centre, heard how onCore UK will now accept donations from University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.

The trust, which runs the Queen Elizabeth - a centre of excellence for cancer care - and Selly Oak hospitals, will now be able to supply the national archive, which scientists will be able to use to develop new drugs, treatments and better understand the disease.

Patients must formally agree to donate tissue or blood, and while donations will be linked to their medical history, researchers will not have access to donors' identities.

The facility, which is funded by Cancer Research UK, the Department of Health and the Medical Research Council, already works with other hospitals to collect samples.

Dr Neil Steven, consultant in medical oncology and clinical lead for the Pan Birmingham Cancer Research Network which is co-ordinating tissue donations with local trusts, welcomed the move.

He said: "We're delighted to have established this partnership with onCore UK which we hope will greatly benefit cancer patients in Birmingham. Patients want to fight cancer and donating tissue for high quality research is one way to do it."

Nigel Miller, who lives in Lickey, near Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, was given just two years to live in 2005 after doctors discovered he had a malignant brain tumour.

Mr Miller, who is now in remission, said: "Knowing your tumour has been entirely or partially removed by surgery is a great boost when you have cancer.

"In 2005 I was given two years to live, but now I am in remission thanks to treatment. Now patients can easily donate their tumour for research and because of onCore UK's national tissue bank we can be confident that our donations will be used by the best scientists in the best and most ethical way."

Although onCore UK's biobank receives samples from centres across the country, there are not enough samples to go round especially in the case of rare cancers.

Anne Carter, the firm's head of operations, said: "onCore UK was set up both to help facilitate cancer research in the UK and to meet the desire expressed by people with cancer to help." :