Yorkshire Cancer Research will invest £3.1m in five new projects in Leeds to help improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer in Yorkshire.
The projects cover a wide range of issues including reducing the recurrence of cancer, improving early diagnosis and increasing access to palliative care.
The charity will invest £1.3m in a four-year programme of research to improve the quality of palliative care in the region. Nearly 14,000 people die from cancer every year in Yorkshire 1. In the weeks and months before they die, patients often experience breathlessness, fatigue and high levels of pain.
Palliative care aims to make patients as comfortable as possible by managing pain and other distressing symptoms and providing psychological and social support for patients and their family or carers. There are inequalities in access to palliative care across Yorkshire. Previous studies have shown that in Leeds, just 65% of patients with cancer receive palliative care before they die 2.
Researchers at the University of Leeds’ Academic Unit of Palliative Care, led by Professor Michael Bennett, and at Hull York Medical School, led by Prof Fliss Murtagh, will investigate how and when patients access palliative care, introduce new measures to improve how symptoms are formally assessed and monitored, and equip clinical teams with resources and training to help them address those symptoms. The team will work in partnership with local hospices and Clinical Commissioning Groups to develop the programme.
Another project, funded with a £357,000 investment, will help women with breast cancer reduce their risk of the disease returning. Approximately 4,300 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in Yorkshire 3. Following initial treatment, about 30% of these women currently experience a return of their cancer, known as recurrence 4.
Seven in 10 breast cancer patients are prescribed a five-year course of hormonal therapy to try to prevent recurrence. However, estimates suggest that around half do not take their medication correctly due to a range of factors, including coping with side effects 5.
Researchers at the University of Leeds will design and test a programme of therapy sessions to see if a psychological intervention can help increase the number of women who take hormonal therapies as prescribed. If all women were to take their medication 80% of the time, an estimated 174 lives could be saved every year in Yorkshire 6.
The research will be led by Dr Samuel Smith and Dr Christopher Graham at the Leeds Institute of Health Sciences and developed in partnership with women taking hormonal therapies and NHS clinicians.
A £174,000 trial, carried out by researchers at the University of Leeds’ School of Psychology and led by Professor Daryl O’Connor, will test whether participation in cervical screening can be increased by sending women additional information and a help sheet.
Women aged 25-49 years old are currently invited to take part in cervical screening every three years. Cervical screening is used to find early changes to cells in the cervix. If abnormal cells are found, they can be checked or removed before cancer is able to develop.
Screening participation is lowest in women aged 25-49, and rates are falling 7. They are also particularly low in areas of deprivation. Just 62% of those eligible take part in screening within the target time in Bradford City CCG, compared to 79% in Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby CCG 8.
A £912,000 investment will fund a smoking cessation service, to be delivered as part of the charity’s lung screening trial which starts in summer 2018. The screening trial, funded by a separate £5.2m investment, will be carried out in mobile vans within communities in Leeds. Smokers and ex-smokers aged 55-80 years will be invited to take part.
Researchers at the University of Nottingham’s UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, led by Dr Rachael Murray, will offer those attending screening a picture of their own scan showing possible lung and heart damage, along with information about how stopping smoking reduces their risk of cancer and heart attacks.
They will test whether the provision of personalised information increases smoking cessation rates. If successful, the findings could guide how smoking cessation is integrated into future screening programmes.
Finally, researchers at the University of Leeds’ Institute of Cancer and Pathology, led jointly by Dr Ane Appelt and Dr Simon Gollins and supported by a £394,000 investment, will carry out a phase II clinical trial of radiotherapy for rectal cancer. Some patients with early rectal cancer are not able to have it removed by surgery, which is otherwise the standard treatment, but may receive radiotherapy instead. The trial will test whether using a higher dose of radiotherapy can increase the number patients whose cancer completely disappears following treatment with acceptable side-effects. This may ultimately lead to improved quality of life after a diagnosis of rectal cancer.
Dr Kathryn Scott, Chief Executive at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: “We are extremely proud to announce our latest research investment. The successful projects will address some incredibly important issues currently facing cancer patients in Yorkshire, including quality of life following diagnosis and how we can work to improve this.
“The most exciting thing about these projects is that thousands of people and patients across the region will have the chance to share their knowledge and guide our researchers in finding solutions to problems they face in improving their health and accessing early diagnosis and the very best care.
“We’d like to thank the charity’s supporters throughout the region who have made this investment possible. From holding Yorkshire tea parties to running marathons, every penny they have raised has been vital in helping us bring this pioneering research to Yorkshire.”
The projects are part of a £3.6m investment by the charity in research that will improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer across Yorkshire.
2. Ziegler L, Hill K, Nielly L, Bennett MI, Higginson IJ, Murray SA, Stark D. Identifying psychological distress at key stages of the cancer illness trajectory: A systematic review of self-report measures. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 2011;41(3):619-36
5. Murphy CC, Bartholomew LK, Carpentier MY, Bluethmann SM, Vernon SW. Adherence to adjuvant hormonal therapy among breast cancer survivors in clinical practice: a systematic review. Breast cancer research and treatment. 2012;134(2):459-78.
6. McCowan C, Wang S, Thompson AM, Makubate B, Petrie DJ. The value of high adherence to tamoxifen in women with breast cancer: a community-based cohort study. British journal of cancer. 2013;109(5):1172-80.
7. Public Health England, National General Practice Profiles, Cancer, https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/general-practice/data
8. Cervical Screening Programme, England – 2015-2016, http://digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB22414
Notes to Editors
- Harrogate-based Yorkshire Cancer Research was founded in 1925 and is the largest independent regional cancer charity in England (Registered Charity 516898). We are not part of a national charity.
- We are committed to reducing the devastating impact of cancer on the lives of people living in Yorkshire.
- Our mission is to work in partnership, fund research and support initiatives that will help people in Yorkshire avoid, survive and cope with cancer.
- Current statistics show that 575 people are diagnosed with cancer in Yorkshire every week. Incidence and mortality rates are higher than the England average due to social deprivation, post-industrialisation and lifestyle choices but also availability of healthcare services and difficulties accessing early diagnostics, clinical trials and the latest treatments.
- We aim to:
- Be the leading authority on cancer in Yorkshire, understanding the problems and priorities in the region and sharing knowledge with partners.
- Raise awareness of cancer and how to prevent it by working in local communities, schools and colleges, sports clubs and with other health-related organisations.
- Promote screening programmes and fund research that can improve the diagnosis of cancer so we can detect and treat it at the earliest opportunity.
- Invest in innovative research projects at every stage of a cancer patient's journey.
- Campaign for fair and equal access to the very best healthcare services and a greater share of the money spent nationally on research.
- For further information, please visit www.yorkshirecancerresearch.org.uk or follow us on Facebook or Twitter