New Leeds Cancer Research Centre announced at 'critically important time'

An ambitious vision placing Leeds at the global forefront of cancer research has been officially set out today.

By Georgina Morris
Friday, 4th February 2022, 4:30 pm

The University of Leeds is teaming up with Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust to create the Leeds Cancer Research Centre, a new venture bringing together experts from across a range of disciplines to tackle some of the greatest challenges facing cancer research right now.

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The centre’s goal is to transform the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer; tackle cancer-related health inequalities, and improve patient outcomes in Leeds, Yorkshire and across the globe.

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Professor Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds. Picture: Simon Hulme

It is being led by clinical director David Sebag-Montefiore, professor of oncology in the University of Leeds’ School of Medicine and consultant clinical oncologist at Leeds Teaching Hospitals.

“The creation of the Leeds Cancer Research Centre comes at a critically important time,” he said. “The pandemic reinforces the need for cheaper, safer, and more effective treatments for patients, and the need to reconfigure our health care system to ensure safe effective cancer treatment during future viral outbreaks.”

Although UK cancer survival has doubled in the last four decades, only 50 per cent of patients survive 10 years or more. More than a third of cancers are preventable and another third can be cured if detected early and treated properly.

In Yorkshire, more than 31,000 new cases are diagnosed every year, with the third worst outcomes in England. Nearly a fifth of the Leeds City Region’s population live in areas of severe social deprivation where cancer is the leading cause of death, with lung cancer accounting for over half of the cases.

Some 40 per cent of people from these communities who develop cancer are diagnosed at a late stage – and have a 50 per cent greater chance of dying from the disease than those who live in Leeds’ least deprived areas.

These problems are predicted to worsen due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, with more cases diagnosed at a late stage due to limitations on cancer screening and fewer patients visiting their GP during lockdown.

Professor Simone Buitendijk, University of Leeds vice-chancellor, said: “Our vision of helping to shape a better future for all relies on collaboration, using challenge-led research to tackle the inequalities experienced by people both locally and around the world.

“The Leeds Cancer Research Centre will enable us to accelerate cancer detection, diagnosis and treatment by harnessing our considerable strengths in structural and chemical biology, clinical research, physical sciences and engineering, and by fostering greater connections across the clinical, research and patient community.”

The University of Leeds is already home to some of the most advanced facilities in the world, including the STORM laboratory where engineers are developing robotics to enable intelligently guided diagnosis and treatment of hard-to-reach cancers.

In the Astbury Centre, scientists are using cutting-edge technology to discover novel, chemical tools that accelerate the development of new and less toxic drug treatments.

The Leeds Lung Health Check study, funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research, has diagnosed more than 200 cancers early, allowing patients to receive curative treatment with surgery or radiotherapy.

And an international team of scientists, led by Professor Phil Quirke, is working on a £20m Cancer Research-funded Grand Challenge project which has discovered that gut micro-organisms are not only capable of initiating bowel cancer but could also be used to provide a more effective bowel cancer screening test.

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