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Bowel Cancer Research

Cancer ResearchBowel cancer (also called colorectal cancer) is the third most common type of cancer in England, with 4668 cases diagnosed in Yorkshire in 2010. The symptoms of early bowel cancer can include blood in your stool, a change in normal bowel habits, abdominal pain or unexplained weight loss. Currently everyone aged 60 ”“ 69 is offered bowel cancer screening every two years in England to increase the chances of catching it as early as possible. The rate of diagnosis of bowel cancer has been rising across the Yorkshire and Humber region; however, deaths from the disease have been falling due to a better understanding of the disease through research.



Cancer ResearchEicosapentaenoic acid: A potential ‘nutraceutical’ for treatment and prevention of metastatic colorectal cancer

When cancer spreads to other organs (metastasis), it becomes much more difficult to treat effectively. This study looked into how a fatty acid – EPA – prevented cancer metastasis in a model of advanced bowel cancer. It found that EPA reduces the motility of some cancer cells, thereby inhibiting metastasis. The data from this work has led to a clinical trial examining whether EPA can prevent the return of bowel cancer metastases after surgery.


  • Principle investigator: Professor Mark Hull
  • Leeds Institute of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences
  • Award amount: £240,183
  • July 2011 – June 2014



Cancer ResearchImproving outcomes in bowel cancer

This award helped to support a wide portfolio of projects aiming to improve the treatment of bowel cancer across Yorkshire. This included better use of imaging to increase the effectiveness of surgery, the use of preoperative chemotherapy in advanced colon cancer and the assessment of the molecular characteristics of tumours to tailor treatments to individual patients. This also helped to create a database of routine NHS data to identify poor practice and targets for improvement


  • Principle investigator: Professor Philip Quirke
  • University of Leeds
  • Award amount: £1,119,324
  • June 2010 – May 2015



Cancer ResearchIncreasing bowel cancer screening uptake: Development and testing of a new behaviour change intervention for use in deprived and non-deprived populations

Yorkshire has some of the lowest bowel cancer screening uptake rates in the UK. This means that bowel cancers are not being detected early, resulting in poorer outcomes. Professor O’Connor’s team is creating a help sheet which will be delivered to people selected for screening with the aim of helping them to make the decision to participate in the screening programme. By increasing the number of people participating in bowel cancer screening, Yorkshire bowel cancer outcomes can be significantly improved.


  • Principle investigator: Professor Daryl O’Connor
  • University of Leeds
  • Award amount: £106,314
  • February 2016 – August 2017



Cancer ResearchThe regulation of potential cancer driver genes in colorectal cancer

Previous work analysed colon tumour samples to identify genes that were commonly altered in cancer. This led to the identification of 5 candidate genes that may be important in the development or progression of colon cancer. This project will examine the effects of altering whether these genes are turned on or off in colon cancer cells, revealing whether they have an important role in the disease. This may identify them as targets for the development of new treatments.


  • Principle investigator: Professor Angela Cox
  • University of Sheffield
  • Award amount: £69,254
  • October 2012 – September 2017



Cancer ResearchOptimising anti-colorectal cancer treatment with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) through understanding of mechanisms of action and cellular resistance

Previous work in Professor Hull’s lab has shown that a component of fish oil – EPA – helps to prevent bowel cancer metastasis in models of the disease. However, some cancer cells show resistance to the effects of EPA. This project is looking into the mechanisms behind this resistance, providing insights into how this resistance may be overcome. Specifically, they are testing whether aspirin might be used in combination with EPA to increase the anti-cancer effects of EPA.


  • Principle investigator: Professor Mark Hull
  • University of Leeds
  • Award amount: £228,454
  • January 2015 – December 2017



Cancer ResearchUsing primary care to increase uptake of the Bowel Scope Screening Programme in Hull: evaluating paper and telephone based interventions

Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death. Bowel scope screening (BSS) saves lives by removing pre-cancerous growths within the bowel, which can help to prevent the disease. Dr McGregor’s team will look at ways in which GPs can encourage their patients to consider screening. Using specifically designed BSS information leaflets and GP-based reminders to target people who do not attend their appointments, their work aims to increase BSS uptake and dramatically reduce the number of preventable bowel cancer deaths in Yorkshire.


  • Principal applicant: Dr Lesley McGregor and Dr Christian von Wagner
  • University College London
  • Award amount: £347,666
  • April 2017 – October 2019



Cancer ResearchAccelerating new treatments in clinical trials in bowel cancer

Bowel cancer affects over 3,300 people in Yorkshire every year. A team led by Professor Philip Quirke are using a variety of approaches to improve the treatment of bowel cancer. This includes trying to understand why some bowel cancers respond differently to radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and finding ways to predict which treatments will work best for individual patients. They will also use their expertise to improve the quality of surgery and pathology in the Yorkshire region.


  • Principle investigator: Professor Philip Quirke
  • University of Leeds
  • Award amount: £1,499,999
  • June 2015 – May 2020



Cancer ResearchA randomised placebo-controlled phase III trial of the effect of the omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) on colorectal cancer recurrence and survival after surgery for resectable liver metastases (The EMT2 study)

In bowel cancer patients where the cancer has spread to the liver, surgery to remove the liver cancer is often the best treatment option. Unfortunately, the cancer will recur in a large proportion of these patients, leading to increased mortality. A small-scale trial has shown that taking omega-3 fish oil supplements before and after surgery may have a positive impact on patient survival. A team led by Professor Mark Hull aims to scale up this research to see if omega-3 fish oil can help prevent cancer coming back after surgery.


  • Principle investigator: Professor Mark Hull
  • University of Leeds
  • Award amount: £1,496,870
  • October 2015 – March 2021



Cancer ResearchThe Yorkshire Cancer Research bowel cancer improvement programme

A team led by Professor Philip Quirke are collecting data about the quality of bowel cancer treatments and outcomes in hospitals across Yorkshire. By examining this data, they will identify areas which require improvement and recruit international experts in cancer treatment to educate health care providers. This will significantly improve the quality of bowel cancer care across Yorkshire.


  • Principle investigator: Professor Philip Quirke
  • University of Leeds
  • Award amount: £1,500,000
  • April 2016 – March 2021