Beating bowel cancer together

What next for our bowel cancer research programme?

The last 12 months have been fantastic for our research programme, with the award of our first six research grants and the appointment of the Bowel Cancer UK/RCS Colorectal Research Chair. In 2018-19 we are delighted to be able to build on this success with the opening of our second research grant round.  Our Head of Research, Dr Julia Ambler, recaps on the last year, gives a flavour of what’s to come and explains how we make sure the research we fund is of the highest possible quality.

Looking back

In 2017 we made a commitment to invest a million pounds in research - £500,000 into surgical research and a further £500,000 in our first grant round. Our very first award in 2017 was for surgical fellow, Marta Penna. This year, she was joined by two further fellows Roshani Patel and Michelle Johnpulle. Working with the Royal College of Surgeons of England, we hope to fund up to four further fellows in the next two years building a network and supporting the future bowel cancer surgical leaders.

Our commitment to surgical research also saw the appointment of Professor David Jayne at the University of Leeds as the Bowel Cancer UK/RCS Eng Colorectal Research Chair. Over the next four years of our funding, and beyond, Professor Jayne will be working to drive forward surgical clinical trial research for bowel cancer, both increasing the number of trials and helping to make sure more patients are able to take part. We were thrilled, in September this year, to be able to launch an appeal with the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh to fund a similar post in Scotland.

Our final highlight was the announcement, in Bowel Cancer Awareness month, of our first six research grants. You can read about all the projects, including our surgical awards, on our website. Dr Claire Palles from the University of Birmingham, who features in a recent blog post said of her award:

“Investment from Bowel Cancer UK will allow my group to leverage existing DNA samples and data from young people diagnosed with bowel cancer. There are 15 genes that we already know about and rare inherited changes in these genes greatly increase a person’s risk of developing bowel cancer. However, changes in these genes only explain a small proportion of bowel cancer cases diagnosed in young people. This is why the project that Bowel Cancer UK have funded is so important. ”

Looking forward

For our 2018-19 grant round we are again focusing on three specific areas from our five year research strategy:

  • Improving the bowel cancer screening programme and use of endoscopy resource so that more people are diagnosed at the earliest stage of the disease
  • Understanding  and improving the identification of people at high risk of bowel cancer, such as those with a strong family history or longstanding medical condition like inflammatory bowel disease or type 2 diabetes
  • Furthering our knowledge of bowel cancer in the under 50s to better understand why bowel cancer in this age group is growing and to help ensure patients are diagnosed as quickly as possible

Interested researchers are asked to send us a detailed description of their proposed project which gives us information on the work they intend to do, the costs and any ethical issues such as the use of animals or human samples. These detailed descriptions are then subject to a process called peer review.

We ask expert researchers all over the world about whether they feel the proposed project is high quality and if we should consider funding it. These expert reviewers give their time voluntarily to help us and other organisations that fund research. 

We also have a ‘Scientific Advisory Board’ and a Lay Review Panel who meet in person to discuss the grant applications. Thanks to the time these two expert committees give us, we can be sure that the research we fund is not only good science, but also relevant and important to patients. Using this two-pronged approach, we ensure that the research projects we fund are of the highest quality. If you’d like to read about the process in more detail, you can see our blog post from last year.

It will take us about eight months to complete this process and we hope to be able to announce our next set of research grants in late summer 2019. We look forward to sharing the details of these new research projects with you!

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