Help us to stop bowel cancer

We identify critical research gaps that could stop the UK’s second biggest killer in its tracks

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Almost 332,000 people living in the UK will needlessly lose their lives to bowel cancer – a preventable, treatable and curable disease – between now and 2035 unless urgent action is taken to fill critical research gaps identified in our report ‘Finding the Key to the Cures: a plan to end bowel cancer by 2050’ launched today. If ignored, the scale of the issue will only grow larger.

The research (Lawler M, et al. Gut 2017;0:1–15. doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2017-315333) is published in the leading international academic journal, GUT, today. 

Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer with 16,000 people dying from the disease, and the fourth most common cancer with over 41,200 people diagnosed each year. Globally, 694,000 people die from bowel cancer and 1.4 million people are diagnosed every year.

Early diagnosis is critical to changing this, but the disease can be difficult to detect early, as symptoms are often attributed to more common, but less serious, conditions. Nearly 98% of people will survive bowel cancer for five years or more if detected at stage 1 compared with less than one in ten people who are diagnosed at stage 4.

To accelerate progress, the charity brought together 100 leading scientists, healthcare professionals and people affected by the disease to identify the key research gaps and priorities in bowel cancer research. If these are addressed, they could transform survival rates and ultimately benefit thousands of people in the future.  

The report reveals fifteen key research questions together with vital recommendations to address these gaps, which include:

  1. How do our genes, lifestyles and the environment we live in affect risk of bowel cancer?
  2. How can we improve the bowel cancer screening programme?
  3. Can we develop new treatment options with the potential to cure people of bowel cancer?
  4. How can we improve quality of life for people living with and beyond bowel cancer?
  5. What’s the best way to improve communication between healthcare professionals and patients?

Professor Mark Lawler, Lead author and Chair in Translational Cancer Genomics, Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, Queen’s University Belfast, says: “This report provides us with a unique road map for bowel cancer research to make an impact, informing and influencing future research ideas, underpinning appropriate research strategies and directing funding allocation to where it is most clearly needed. We have identified the key research priorities that have the greatest potential to benefit patients over the next five years and beyond.”

“This landmark report is the step change needed to energise the research community to stop this deadly disease in its tracks.”

Deborah Alsina MBE, Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK, says: “The harsh reality is that every year 16,000 people lose their lives to the disease, and if left unchecked, this number will only increase in the future. The need for speed prompted us to take action to identify a plan to accelerate bowel cancer research.

“This report will act as a catalyst to encourage much needed collaboration, build research capacity and help shape the future of bowel cancer research. Through strategic investment in targeted research, we will deliver improvements for bowel cancer patients.

“By 2028 we want to see the number of people surviving for at least five years to increase from 60% to 75%, this means thousands more people surviving bowel cancer each year. This will take us one step closer to our long term goal, that by 2050 no one dies of bowel cancer.

“Research is the key to finding the cures to bowel cancer.”

We are determined to save lives from bowel cancer but we can’t do this without you. Support vital research and lifesaving work to stop bowel cancer.
We are determined to save lives from bowel cancer but we can’t do this without you. Support vital research and lifesaving work to stop bowel cancer.

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