Birmingham's centre of excellence for research into new cancer treatments has become a victim of its own success, according to one city oncologist.

More doctors and scientists across Britain are seeking help from the Institute of Cancer Studies to carry out their clinical trials.

But the centre, which brings together experts from Birmingham University and University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, is " entirely reliant" on charity grants and funding.

Dr Neil Stevens, a bowel and skin cancer specialist based at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Edgbaston, explained the quest for improved treatment for patients was very costly.

A new study into a vaccine for melanoma (skin cancer) has been staffed by 11 scientists and doctors who have given their time for free.

Now that the pilot study has been completed, Dr Stevens - who works within the Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility at UHB - anticipates the second phase will cost around £250,000.

"Even for routine work, we have to find £200 to £300 for a fifth of a millilitre of specialist chemicals used in such studies and that can mount up," he said.

"There are 18 end-phase trials and nine early-stage studies being carried out here which involves hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of patients. Increasingly we are being approached to carry out trials from outside Birmingham, because we're a recognised centre of excellence.

"But many studies like this would not have been funded if Cancer Research UK and the Wellcome Trust didn't get involved."

Although Birmingham University has a strong record in cancer research, the institute's profile is elevated through its links to the QE Hospital as a major regional cancer service. Among the ongoing clinical trials are two studies examining new ways to treat breast cancer using a hormone treatment tamoxifen and a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Dr Stevens said: "While drug companies may invest in research, no company is interested in funding studies like this, so we are entirely reliant on charities like CRUK. The reason this can be so expensive is we must ensure patients get the best possible treatment at all times. So when people raise money for the charity, they don't realise how much of a difference £50, £25, even a tenner can make to projects like this."

Members of staff at the Institute and the Wellcome Trust centre are taking part in Race For Life events across the Midlands to help raise more vital funds.