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Have you ever wondered what happens to your money that you donate for cancer research? By far the vast majority of the money goes into research projects into various cancers – causation, treatment and prevention. Some goes into creating significant resources for cancer care specialists to make sure the best evidence based information is on their fingertips when it comes to dealing with cancer patients.

Cancer Research UK is a national charity which coordinates all the above activities. To this end it has set up various centres of excellence in the UK. One of these is in Leicester based at Leicester Royal Infirmary. This centre is largely funded by our local charity Hope Against Cancer and has been instrumental in not only sponsoring groundbreaking research into cancer but also in attracting some of the best minds in cancer treatment to Leicester. This benefits all of us by ensuring that we get the best possible care if any of us develop cancer.

Some (amongst many) of the projects Hope is sponsoring are :

Circulating free DNA as a biomarker for Pancreatic Cancer

Haematological cancers like leukaemia

Improving consultations in chemotherapy and radiotherapy

Identifications of biomarkers in Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Hope needs to raise £150,000 every year not only to fund these projects but also to provide a Research nurse based at Leicester Royal Infirmary. More importantly Hope wants to build on the initial promising project from previous years looking at the effect of cumurin (an ingredient of turmeric powder used in Indian cooking) in preventing bowel cancer. This is going to be a major study for the next year or two, which we all hope will progress onto a major breakthrough not only in the prevention but treatment of bowel cancers.

Looking ahead the Leicester based genetics department is actively co-ordinating with the University of Cambridge in setting up the 100,000 Genome Project. I was talking to Dr Julian Barwell, Consultant Clinical Geneticist and Senior Lecturer of Clinical Genetics at University of Leicester Royal and he briefed me on this exciting project which will revolutionise cancer care. The aim is to recruit 75,000 cancer patients, and in some cases relatives, and map their entire genome to help scientists to understand and treat cancer better. Please click on this link for a brief introduction and information on the Genomes Project : http://youtu.be/KiQgrK3tge8

Dr Barwell explained the challenges involved in recruiting this number of patients and stressed the importance of explaining and distributing the information about this project far and wide. We also discussed the enormity of the new data emerging from the study into genetics – what genes are responsible for certain cancers, how to tailor the most effective treatment based on genetics, understanding what turns these genes on and what inhibits them and also what role stem cell research has for the future of genetics.

These are crucial times in cancer research. Recently there has been some mention in the media about the role “chance” has in who gets cancer. Unfortunately, and typically the media distorted the study they based their reporting on. The study was about looking at how some genes mutate to cause cancer even if their is no familial link. The truth seems to be nearer to the fact that environmental and lifestyle factors determine why some genes mutate.

In my next blog I would like to touch on the environmental and lifestyle factors that predispose us to cancer and how we can all play a part in reducing our and our children’s risk.

This blog gives you some idea as to my passion into why I am doing this trans-alpine cycling challenge for Hope Against Cancer. Please click on  this link to reach my fund raising page.

I would welcome your comments and any other encouragement you can give me in my challenge.