Leeds researchers issue rallying cry urging people to Stand Up To Cancer

PIC: Richard Walker
PIC: Richard Walker
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A TEAM of Leeds cancer researchers are rallying people in the city to Stand Up To Cancer and help save lives.

Research Fellows Dr Becky Birch and Dr Beth Levick, along with PhD Student Ana Sredic-Rhodes from the UK Bowel Cancer Intelligence Hub at the University of Leeds, donned bright orange boxing gloves to encourage the public to strike a blow against cancer by raising money for vital research.

Every hour, around three people are diagnosed with cancer in Yorkshire.

Stand Up To Cancer unites scientists, celebrities and communities. It’s supported by a host of stars including Davina McCall, Edith Bowman, Alan Carr, Joel Dommett and Kirsty Allsopp.

Money raised for Stand Up To Cancer helps take developments from the lab and transform them, quickly, into brand new tests and treatments for cancer patients.

The Leeds research team are urging everyone to join them and Stand Up To Cancer, to support life-saving research.

Dr Beth Levick said: “Research is cancer’s number one enemy. Stand Up To Cancer helps fund clinical trials and research projects which pack a punch in the fight against the disease.

“This research is crucial, but also very expensive. That’s why we’re calling on Leeds fundraisers to get fighting fit and help doctors and scientists speed through breakthroughs for the benefit of cancer patients in Yorkshire and across the UK.”

Since it was launched in the UK in 2012, Stand Up To Cancer has raised over £38 million to support life-saving research.

This includes the development of the ‘chemo-package’ to deliver treatment at the best time for the patient; investigations into whether exercise can prevent cancer from returning and using MRI to turn radiotherapy into a more precise, personalised and powerful anti-cancer weapon.

Dr Becky Birch added: “When it comes to cancer we need to box clever. By boosting funding right now, the best research teams will be able to develop innovative new treatments, bring cures faster and save more lives.”

With the aim of helping more people survive bowel cancer, the three researchers work together at the Leeds Institute of Data Analytics, in the UK Bowel Cancer Intelligence Hub, led by Professor Eva Morris and funded by Cancer Research UK.

Diagnosis, treatment and outcomes from bowel cancer vary significantly across different parts of the country and different groups of people. To see where change is needed to reduce inequalities and improve survival, requires drilling down into data on thousands of bowel cancer patients.

The availability of such high-quality cancer intelligence has recently been limited so the team in Leeds are working to redress this by collecting this data from across the UK. The data includes waiting times, GP appointments, hospital records, clinical trial outcomes, pathology reports, screening programmes, genetic analysis, radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatments. This information is then cross-referenced with patient data and analysed, creating a bank of high-quality data that can then be used in research to help people who have bowel cancer now or in the future.

The three researchers, who all live in Leeds, each have personal reasons for helping cancer patients at the heart of what they do.

Research Fellow Dr Becky Birch, 32, who trained at the University of Leeds and is originally from the City, said: “I have a focus on assessing whether reducing the differences in bowel cancer treatment across the country, particularly in relation to age, could benefit patients. Our data shows that older people are less actively treated than younger people and I’m working to find out why. I think it is vital to ensure that all patients are getting the most appropriate treatment which will give them the best possible end result.

“I am delighted to support Stand Up To Cancer. I’m motivated to do what I do because many members of my immediate family have been diagnosed with cancer, some more than once. My first contact with cancer was when my grandad died when I was little and this has stuck with me and inspired me to work in cancer research.”

PhD student Ana Sredic-Rhodes, 24, who is originally from Saltburn and also trained at the University of Leeds, said: “My research involves linking data in the Bowel Cancer Intelligence Hub to different sources of genetic and lifestyle data. The aim is to understand more about how genetics and lifestyle factors - such as smoking and alcohol consumption- can impact bowel cancer development, how a person responds to chemotherapy or radiotherapy and their survival.

“I am supporting Stand Up To Cancer because a family member of mine has recently been diagnosed with cancer. I hope that one day treatment will improve enough so that nobody has to worry about losing a loved one to the disease.

Research Fellow Dr Beth Levick, 26, who is from Wakefield and trained at the University of Liverpool, said: I look at what happens to people after they have had treatments for colon or rectal cancer. We want to try help doctors to know how best to tackle each patient’s cancer, and which patients might need more help to recover from their treatment.

“For me, it was really exciting to join this research team as we work in partnership with a patient-public group, many of whom have bowel cancer or are in remission. Working with them is seriously inspiring, as you can’t help but see how much they want to change what it means to get cancer for the better. I do my job, and support Stand Up To Cancer, to help them, and other cancer patients, see that change.”

Nicki Embleton, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Yorkshire, said: “Like Becky, Ana and Beth, it’s time to make a stand and get payback on cancer for all the people whose lives have been cut short by this devastating disease.

“There are lots of fun ways to join the fight. You can get creative in the kitchen, get sponsored to stand out in orange at work or school or take part in a sponsored wax or head shave. A free fundraising pack is available, full of fun and creative ways to conjure up crucial cash.”

She added: “We are in a ‘golden age’ for cancer research and every pound raised by Stand Up To Cancer takes us a step closer to beating the disease. We will never throw in the towel. We believe this is a fight that we can win.”

People in Yorkshire can also show their support for the campaign in style as a fun range of clothing and accessories for men, women and children is available now online and at Cancer Research UK shops from late September.Stand Up To Cancer will culminate with an unforgettable night of live television on Friday, October 26.