Yorkshire Cancer Research announced a £4.9m programme of research to tackle cancer inequalities in Hull on Wednesday, March 15.
The charity will work in partnership with the University of Hull, the Hull York Medical School and Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust to deliver a series of five-year research projects that will improve the experience of cancer patients and ensure more people in the city survive the disease.
The initiative will focus on ensuring that patients are diagnosed at the earliest possible stage and that they have equal access to the very best treatments and supportive care.
The investment will fund the appointment of 11 of the country’s most promising researchers, who will help to establish the city as a centre of excellence for cancer research, and the programme is expected to attract further national funding to the area.
Dr Kathryn Scott, Interim Chief Executive at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: “This investment is another huge step in achieving our goal to save 2,000 more lives in Yorkshire every year by 2025. We know we can have a significant impact in Hull by making sure people know how to spot the signs and symptoms of cancer and when to visit the doctor, but also that they understand the importance of attending screening appointments.
“We also need to work with GPs to ensure they are able to refer possible cancer patients to hospital as quickly as possible, and that healthcare professionals are able to deliver the best possible care to patients and their families once they have been referred.
Hull is the most deprived local authority in Yorkshire and the third most deprived in the country. Areas with high levels of deprivation often have poor cancer outcomes. The reasons behind this include higher levels of unhealthy behaviours, such as smoking and drinking alcohol, poor knowledge and awareness of symptoms, and barriers in access to healthcare.
There are an estimated 8,720 people in Hull currently living with or beyond cancer. Lung cancer incidence and mortality rates in the area are significantly higher than the national average. Survival rates in Hull also lag behind the England and Yorkshire averages.
In 2016, just over a quarter of cancer patients in Hull were diagnosed with Stage 4 disease, the most advanced type. When cancer is diagnosed at a late stage there are often fewer treatment options and the chances of survival can be lower.
Professor Glenn Burgess, Acting Vice-Chancellor at the University of Hull, said: “This award is significant news for Yorkshire. It is testament to the world-class research and innovation delivered by the University and Hull York Medical School that we have won this funding from Yorkshire Cancer Research to carry out this important work.
‘This research will not only contribute to transforming the way our hospitals and GPs work but will also have an impact for those suffering from cancer, their families and carers.”
Professor Una Macleod, Dean of Hull York Medical School, said: “We want to radically change the life chances of people in our region living with cancer and this funding from Yorkshire Cancer Research will help us make this aim a reality.
“We welcome the funding from Yorkshire Cancer Research for this important area of research to reduce inequalities in cancer outcomes and improve survival rates in Yorkshire.
“Cancer incidence, mortality and survival rates are often worse for those living in Yorkshire than across England as a whole, and they are especially bad in Hull. The picture worsens for the elderly and for those from socially-deprived communities. These research projects will help us understand why these differences exist, and how to reduce inequalities, speed up referrals, and improve access to care and treatment.”
Chris Long, Chief Executive at Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “The big challenge we’ve got in this area is that just over a quarter of patients report to their doctor when their tumours are at grade 4, which is the most advanced level of cancer. This reduces our options for treatment and often ends up with the patients having a shortened life as a consequence.
“Research grants like these are really important and I’m so grateful to Yorkshire Cancer Research for the work they are funding in Hull. By working in partnership with the University of Hull and the Hull York Medical School we can attract good quality researchers into the area and they can work alongside practitioners who are actually delivering care. This means we can identify new ways to diagnose people at the earliest possible stage and improve treatment to ensure local people get better outcomes for their illness.”
The project will take place over a period of five years in the new Allam Medical Building, at the heart of the University’s £28 million health campus which will be the home for world-leading research and innovative teaching.
These grants will build on five other significant research projects that are already ongoing at the University, also funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research. The University is making a significant contribution through this work to help Yorkshire Cancer Research have a real impact on patients’ lives and healthcare in Yorkshire.