Researchers from the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow will lead a joint UK and European project with around £5 million funding from Cancer Research UK and two of Europe’s leading cancer research charities to help find better treatments for the disease.
Bowel cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women in Scotland. Around 3,800 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in Scotland every year, and each year around 1,600 Scots die from the disease.
When diagnosed at its earliest stage, more than 9 in 10 people with bowel cancer will survive their disease for five years or more.
But for those patients diagnosed with bowel cancer at the latest stage, only around 1 in 10 will survive their disease for five years or more.
To accelerate progress into bowel cancer research, the Glasgow scientists will lead a project to establish a European and UK network of clinicians and scientists that will bring together the greatest minds in the field to develop more targeted treatments for patients.
The project will be led by Professor Owen Sansom and Dr Andrew Campbell from the city’s Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute.
Dr Campbell said: “We’ve made big strides towards beating bowel cancer – survival is improving and has more than doubled in the last 40 years. But it’s still the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the world, and bowel cancer is the second highest cause of cancer-related death in Europe.
“Our goal with this game-changing project is to work together with our colleagues in the UK, Spain and Italy to share information and cancer models, so that we can better understand the different subtypes of bowel cancer and figure out what is driving them.”
The research has been welcomed by bowel cancer survivor Iain Kerr, 63, from Helensburgh, who this year celebrates five years since the end of his treatment.
Dad-of-two Iain, who is backing Cancer Research UK’s Right Now campaign in Scotland, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in January 2014 – just three months after moving home to Scotland from southwest England to retire with wife Wendy.
Then aged 58, the move meant Iain was eligible for Scotland’s bowel cancer screening programme, which led to the discovery of a tumour in his lower bowel.
A keen hillwalker, Iain says when he left Vale of Leven Hospital after receiving the devastating news, he saw Ben Lomond in the distance and thought, “Will we ever walk up there again?”
But following surgery to remove his tumour and a bowel resection – which was carried out using a surgical procedure never before performed in Scotland – to Iain’s incredible relief, he was told he wouldn’t need any further treatment.
Welcoming Cancer Research UK’s £5 million investment in bowel cancer research, he said: “As far as I’m concerned, research and screening saved my life. The specialist surgery I had – a procedure that was carried out in Scotland for the first time – that’s down to research.
“I was lucky enough to avoid chemotherapy, but not everyone is as fortunate as I was. If this new research led by the scientists in Glasgow can provide a range of treatments that will meet the individual needs of patients with bowel cancer, and provide more options for them, that can only be a good thing.”
Iain’s cancer experience is driving him to back Cancer Research UK’s ‘Right Now’ campaign in Scotland.
The charity’s powerful and emotive ‘Right Now’ TV ads show real patients who have had cancer treatment , followed up by current home video showing how research has helped them get back to enjoying life with their loved ones.
Iain hopes to draw attention to the impact cancer research has had on his own life – giving him more precious time with the people he loves.
He said: “I’m so grateful for the treatment that saved my life and that’s why I want to do everything I can to raise awareness of the power of research in beating the disease. I hope people are motivated to show their support and help save the lives of more people like me.”
The multimillion pound project that will be led by the Glasgow scientists is one of six research projects to receive funding from Cancer Research UK’s Accelerator Awards programme – a funding scheme designed to speed up progress in translational research through collaborations across the UK and in Europe.
The project is being funded by Cancer Research UK and two of Europe’s leading cancer research charities, Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca sul Cancro (AIRC) and Asociación Española Contra el Cáncer (FC AECC).
Dr Victoria Steven, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Scotland, said: “This award is fantastic recognition of the world leading research that’s taking place in Glasgow, which will help shape a better future for bowel cancer patients.
“Every hour, around four people are diagnosed with cancer in Scotland. That’s why we’re working every day to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease. But we can’t do it alone. We hope our Right Now campaign will inspire people to take action and play their part in beating cancer.
“There are so many ways to show your support here in Scotland. From joining a Race for Life event, donating items to a CRUK shop or giving time to volunteer. Every action makes a difference and money raised helps to support Cancer Research UK’s vital work.”