Yorkshire Cancer Research Announces £7m Investment in Lung Cancer and Early Diagnosis

24 January 2017

YORKSHIRE Cancer Research has today (Tuesday, 24 January 2017) announced a £7m investment in ground breaking initiatives that will improve lung cancer outcomes and increase early diagnosis in Yorkshire. 
The announcement follows expert workshops held last year, which were attended by more than 100 influential and experienced leaders in early diagnosis, which is key to improving survival, and lung cancer, the region’s leading cause of premature death. 
The investment is part of the charity’s wider strategy to ensure 2,000 more people living in Yorkshire survive cancer every year by 2025.
The five successful projects include:

  • A £5.2m investment in the UK’s largest lung cancer screening trial, to be carried out in partnership with Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. 

Lung cancer is the most common cancer in Yorkshire, with around 4,500 people diagnosed with the disease every year 1. This differs from the national picture, where lung cancer is the third most common behind breast cancer and prostate cancer 1. 86% of lung cancers are caused by smoking 2, and Yorkshire has one of the highest rates of smoking in England 3
More than half of lung cancer patients in Yorkshire are diagnosed when their cancer is very advanced 4, which means treatment options are limited and the chances of survival are extremely low. Screening those at high risk of developing lung cancer, for example smokers and ex-smokers, before they experience symptoms of the disease has been shown to reduce mortality rates by up to 20% in a US study 5.
Screening will be carried out in mobile vans, which will travel to communities in the Leeds area. The project, led by Dr Matthew Callister, Consultant in Respiratory Medicine at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, will help to determine who should be invited for screening. The results will be used to plan a national programme. 

  • The charity will also fund a community health campaign in Hull, where there are an estimated 54,510 smokers3. The campaign, funded by a £712,501 investment and led by Professor Una Macleod, local GP and Dean of the Hull York Medical School, will raise awareness of symptoms and encourage smokers and ex-smokers to attend lung health checks. 

The team will work with GP practices in the area to make it easier for people to get appointments and referrals for chest x-rays if they experience potential lung cancer symptoms.  

  •  Researchers at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust will join forces with The University of Manchester and specialist cancer centre The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester to improve radiotherapy treatment for patients with lung cancer. Many lung cancer patients are treated with radiotherapy, and while recent advances in this area have led to more people being cured, it can lead to severe damage to the heart. 

The study, funded by a £272,142 investment and led by Professor Corinne Faivre-Finn and Dr Kevin Franks, will determine which areas of the heart are most susceptible to damage during radiotherapy, so that these areas can be avoided or protected. Reducing damage to the heart could improve one-year survival rates by around 10% and the findings could be applied in other cancers where radiotherapy is common such as breast cancer.

  • The charity will invest £486,014 in a health check project aimed at improving the early diagnosis of cancer in disadvantaged communities across Yorkshire.

Cancer outcomes tend to be worse in areas of high deprivation 6. The reasons behind this include higher levels of unhealthy behaviours, such as smoking and drinking alcohol, poor knowledge and awareness of symptoms, and barriers in access to healthcare. 
These factors often lead to diagnosis through emergency routes, such as A&E or emergency GP referral. Patients diagnosed with cancer through an emergency route are more likely to be diagnosed at a late stage, which can mean that treatment options are limited and chances of survival are lower 7.
Dr Kate Brain at Cardiff University will test a new online health questionnaire in deprived communities in Yorkshire, which will be carried out by trained advisors. A traffic light system will be used to determine whether further medical advice should be sought. The project could lead to improvements in cancer awareness in deprived communities which contribute significantly to the poor outcomes in Yorkshire.

  •  The final project, funded by a £347,666 investment, will focus on improving participation in bowel scope screening in Hull. Bowel cancer is the second highest cause of death in Yorkshire, and mortality rates in Hull are the highest in the region 8.

Bowel scope screening is a new, one-off test carried out by specially trained doctors or nurses at NHS bowel cancer screening centres. A thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera on the end is used to look at a section of the large bowel. It can find and remove small pre-cancerous growths called polyps from the bowel, which helps to prevent the disease, as well as identifying early cancers.
Bowel scope screening is being gradually rolled out across Yorkshire, and will eventually be made available to all men and women aged 55. It differs from the home test kit offered to all 60-74 year olds, which is known as the FOB test. This tests for blood in stool samples, which can be an early sign of bowel cancer.
Hull has lower than average participation rates in the current bowel cancer screening programme 9, and it is anticipated that participation rates in bowel scope screening will be even lower. 
Dr Lesley McGregor and Dr Christian von Wagner, based at University College London, will aim to increase participation in Hull by developing a leaflet about bowel scope screening and by comparing different types of GP reminders for people who fail to attend their appointment to see which works best.
Dr Kathryn Scott, Interim Chief Executive at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: “We are extremely excited to announce this significant investment in lung cancer and early diagnosis. These projects are the result of an extensive process, involving expert advice from the country’s very best researchers, to determine how the charity can have the biggest possible impact on cancer survival rates in Yorkshire.
“The five successful projects will involve thousands of people and patients across our region, tackling some of the biggest challenges in the diagnosis and treatment of a disease that kills around 14,000 people in Yorkshire every year. They will also bring expertise into the region from some of the best cancer research centres in the country. We are incredibly grateful to all our supporters for making this investment possible.” 




1.         CancerData, Incidence, http://cancerdata.nhs.uk/incidence, Accessed [January 2017].
2.         Parkin, Boyd and Walker, The fraction of cancer attributable to lifestyle and environmental factors in the UK in 2010, British Journal of Cancer 2011, 105: S1-S81.
3.         Public Health England, Public Health Profiles, Health Profiles, Adults’ health and lifestyle – “Smoking prevalence”, http://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/health-profiles, Accessed [January 2017]. 
4.         Cancer Commissioning Toolkit, Staging by Cancer site Public, 2013 – Stage data, https://www.cancertoolkit.co.uk/ExtractsReports/StagingByCancerSitePublic?downloadPackage=False, Accessed [December 2015].

Note: The data is no longer held at this location. Details are provided on how to obtain the data.
5.         The National Lung Screening Trial Research Team, Reduced Lung-Cancer Mortality with Low-Dose Computed Tomographic Screening, N Engl J Med 2011, 365:395-409 http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1102873#t=article 
6.         NCIN, Cancer by Deprivation in England 1996 – 2011, http://www.ncin.org.uk/about_ncin/cancer_by_deprivation_in_england, Accessed [June 2016].
7.         Public Health England, National Cancer Intelligence Network: cancer survival in England by stage, 2012, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cancer-survival-in-england-by-stage, Accessed [April 2016].
8.         CancerData, Mortality, http://cancerdata.nhs.uk/mortality, Accessed [January 2017].
9.         Public Health England, National General Practice Profiles – Practice Summary, http://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/general-practice/data, Accessed [January 2017]


Nikki Brady, Senior PR Officer, Yorkshire Cancer Research. Tel: 01423 877228. Email: nikki@ycr.org.uk

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.

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