As we move into 2021, we look back on a year that has been both challenging and inspiring.
In March, around half of the charity’s research programmes were paused or slowed down while healthcare professionals and researchers focused on tackling the coronavirus pandemic.
Events were cancelled and fundraising in its usual form was unable to go ahead as social distancing measures took hold.
But we didn’t stop. And neither did you.
With support from the charity, the researchers we fund worked hard to get clinical trials and services back up and running as quickly as possible so that people across Yorkshire could once again benefit from this life-saving work.
In November we announced £8.3m in funding for new research projects that will involve more than 9,000 patients.
And from helping to set a new world record for welly wanging to completing virtual cycling challenges and creating a special cookery book, supporters in the region continued to raise vital funds.
2020 has had a devastating impact on the diagnosis and treatment of people with cancer. But this year has also been one to remember for the resilience and dedication shown by all those involved in our goal to save lives in Yorkshire.
The link between alcohol and cancer
In January we raised awareness of the link between alcohol and cancer by conducting a poll of 3000 people in the UK.
The results showed that a quarter of drinkers in Yorkshire exceed the government’s weekly recommended alcohol limit of 14 units every week, and that 6 in 10 people don’t know what the limit is.
Any amount of alcohol increases the risk of cancer. We shared the facts about alcohol so people in Yorkshire can make a more informed decision about how much they drink.
Yorkshire women missing out on vital screening
We highlighted that more than 350,000 women in Yorkshire are missing out on life-saving tests that could help prevent them from developing cervical cancer.
Figures published by Public Health England showed that a quarter of women in the region do not regularly attend their cervical screening appointments when invited.
During the pandemic, screening was paused while NHS workers focused on tackling Covid-19. However, many services in Yorkshire have now returned to normal, and it’s important to book your appointment if invited.
Shifting Gears on Cancer with the Tour de Yorkshire
In March, we announced that Yorkshire Cancer Research had been chosen as the official charity partner for the Tour de Yorkshire.
The campaign was backed by Harrogate headteacher and lifelong cyclist Chris Burt, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2019.
He said at the time: “I am hugely impressed by Yorkshire Cancer Research’s ambition to reduce cancer rates and to improve outcomes for those who have suffered from cancer and I am delighted to be able to do anything I can to promote this wonderful organisation that is transforming people’s lives.”
Although the Tour de Yorkshire was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, we continued to benefit from the partnership with Welcome to Yorkshire throughout 2020. Funds were raised for the charity at both the Welcome to Yorkshire Ian Woosnam Senior Classic golf tournament and the virtual White Rose Awards ceremony.
Understanding the impact of Covid-19
As the first wave of the pandemic set in, we announced funding to support a global study investigating the impact of Covid-19 on the care of cancer patients needing life-saving surgery.
Led by researchers at the University of Birmingham, the COVIDSurg evaluation study examined data from 9171 patients in 55 countries.
John Edwards, Consultant Thoracic Surgeon at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, led the lung cancer part of the study and championed Yorkshire’s contribution to the research. Funding from Yorkshire Cancer Research helped coordinate the involvement of hospitals in the region and analyse the data collected.
The study found that patients who had their operation and hospital care in COVID-19 free areas had better outcomes. The research showed that these areas can be set-up to allow surgery to proceed safely, even when community infection rates are high.
Moving our shops online
Following a decision to expand the charity’s network of shops across Yorkshire, in early 2020 we opened a new shop in Knaresborough’s market square. It immediately did well, successfully attracting new volunteers, customers and donations.
We were looking forward to re-opening our fully refurbished Northallerton shop when the Government announced that all non-essential shops should close ahead of the national lockdown.
To try to reduce the loss of vital retail income, we acted quickly to set up an eBay store.
As people began decluttering their homes and clearing out wardrobes, donations of second-hand goods started coming in thick and fast.
We were fortunate to attract additional volunteers who set to work listing items online, with jigsaws becoming our most popular item as people searched for indoor activities to help keep themselves occupied.
We’ve now set up our own online shop, where supporters can find books, artwork, face coverings, sporting goods and other items, and we are working to bring additional new shops to the region in 2021 and beyond.
Virtual support for smokers
In May, we tested a stop smoking support service for those looking to quit during lockdown.
The service, funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research and delivered by NHS specialists, provided 12 weeks of personalised support, including video or telephone calls and free nicotine replacement therapies or e-cigarettes delivered directly to those who took part.
Record numbers of people quit smoking in 2020, with many saying they had given up tobacco as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic. As well as being less likely to develop severe complications from Covid-19, those who quit also reduced their risk of at least 15 different types of cancer.
Funding two thirds of clinical trials recruitment
New figures published by the National Institute for Health Research in May showed that during 2019/20, Yorkshire Cancer Research funded 65% of all recruitment to clinical trials for cancer in the region.
The trials created 9000 opportunities for people to take part in groundbreaking research, including an investigation into the feasibility of introducing a screening programme for lung cancer and a study of people living with and after bladder cancer.
Yorkshire and the Humber ranked second out of 15 local Clinical Research Networks in England for the number of people taking part in clinical trials.
Leeds Lung Health Check gets back up and running
The Leeds Lung Health Check programme became the first service of its kind to return to normal service after being paused during the pandemic.
The reopening of the multimillion-pound screening trial, funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research, meant people in Leeds could once again benefit from life-saving scans which are designed to find lung cancer at the earliest possible stage.
The programme has now checked more than 6000 people, and over 100 cancers have been diagnosed. People found to have early-stage cancer through the Leeds Lung Health Check programme - like Gillian Shortall - have gone on to receive surgery and in some cases, curative radiotherapy.
Giving it some welly
During the summer, we held our Give It Some Welly fundraising campaign for the second year running.
We officially launched the campaign with a stunning display of stainless steel wellington boots which were created by Yorkshire artist Anita Bowerman and installed at Castle Howard, near York. The sculpture was made up of 191 wellies, with each welly representing 1,000 people who are living with or have survived cancer in Yorkshire.
We were overwhelmed by the support received from fundraisers across the region, from the organisers of Eldwick Welly Fest who held welly-themed games and activities, to members of the Stadium Riders Mountain Bike Club who cycled 80 miles and NHS workers at the Endoscopy Department at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospital who wore their wellies to work.
Our charity auction, supported by Yorkshire sporting legends, celebrities, attractions and artists, helped raise thousands of pounds for the cause.
And we were thrilled to set a new world record for the most videos of people throwing wellington boots uploaded in one hour on Facebook on Yorkshire Day (1st August).
Marching on Cancer with Leeds United
In September, we announced that Yorkshire Cancer Research had been chosen as the official charity partner of Leeds United Football Club.
Throughout the year, we are working with Leeds United to raise awareness of the world-leading research taking place across the region to help more people avoid and survive cancer.
In November, we teamed up with Yorkshire Post illustrator Graeme Bandeira to create a unique limited-edition Christmas card for Leeds United supporters, featuring the iconic Billy Bremner statue outside Elland Road.
And in December, Leeds United cult hero Dominic Matteo backed the charity’s Giving Tuesday campaign by sharing his personal experience with cancer.
Taking on the Virtual Three Swans Sportive
The charity’s most important event in terms of funds raised - the Selby Three Swans Sportive – was unable to go ahead as normal in September due to coronavirus restrictions.
So, we invited supporters to help shift gears on cancer by completing the distance of their chosen Three Swans route at a time and place to suit them.
£8.3 million to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer
We ended 2020 by announcing £8.3 million of funding for new research that will improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer in Yorkshire.
We gave the ‘green light’ to six new studies involving more than 9000 people. This research will involve some of the UK’s leading cancer experts and rising stars in Yorkshire.
Dr Kathryn Scott, Chief Executive at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: “Delays in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer during the coronavirus pandemic mean it’s vital that we continue to press forward with our goal to address regional cancer priorities and create a beacon of patient-centred cancer research in Yorkshire.”
A huge thank you to all our supporters
Lockdown and social distancing rules meant our supporters needed to come up with new and innovative ideas to continue raising funds in 2020.
We are grateful to every single person who chose to help fund world-leading cancer research during the coronavirus pandemic.
Here are just a few of the amazing ‘lockdown’ fundraisers:
Dr Rachael Murray, who leads the charity’s Yorkshire Stop Smoking Study, completed 26 challenges in 26 hours as part of the 2.6 Challenge, organised to help save the UK’s charities.
12-year-old Theo Nicholson raised £1,169 in memory of his dad by spending 24 hours on his trampoline.
Gym owner Jonathan Walker, who lost his eye to cancer, ran a marathon on a treadmill, raising nearly £2,000.
Seven-year-old Thea Greenwood raised £2,243 by cycling 15 miles in memory of her auntie Helen.
Cycling fan Andy Steer cycled the full 380.5-mile route of the Tour de Yorkshire on a static bike in his bedroom while shielding at home.
Former army corporal Ryan Jones raised £2,603 by completing the 4-4-48 challenge – running the equivalent of two marathons in two days.
Suzanne Rogerson, senior research nurse at the Leeds Lung Health Check, completed the National Three Peaks Challenge despite delays due to coronavirus restrictions.
Ian Baker shaved off his long hair to raise funds in memory of his parents, who both passed away from cancer.
Jason Dobson held virtual karaoke sessions in memory of his mother-in-law Elaine Fox.
A North Leeds Band with an average age of 75 recorded a version of jazz standard ‘All of Me’ via Zoom from their own homes.
The charity’s Huddersfield volunteer group not only made and sold face coverings, but also created a new recipe book featuring more than 50 favourite recipes. The face coverings and book are available to buy in our online shop.
Thank you to all of them and to each of you for supporting Yorkshire Cancer Research and helping to save lives in Yorkshire.