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Queen's researchers in £5 million program to improve bowel cancer survival

Researchers at Queen's University Belfast have launched a revolutionary personalized treatment program to help improve bowel cancer survival rates

Queen's University Belfast

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IMAGE: This is Professor Mark Lawler of Queen's University Belfast. view more

Credit: Queen's University Belfast

Researchers at Queen's University Belfast have launched a revolutionary personalised treatment programme to help improve bowel cancer survival rates.

The £5 million initiative aims to fundamentally change how we treat bowel cancer patients, both in the UK and around the world, by personalising their treatments and ensuring that each patient gets access to the most effective therapies.

The S-CORT Consortium, jointly launched and funded by Medical Research Council (MRC) and Cancer Research UK (CRUK), will employ the latest state-of-the-art techniques to define the genetic make-up of bowel cancer cells, collected from over 2,000 patients from large clinical trials, and use the information to develop personalised care plans for individual cancer patients.

More than 41,500 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year in the UK. One of the consortium's key aims is to allow the most effective therapies to be delivered to newly-diagnosed bowel cancer patients.

Professor Mark Lawler, Chair of Translational Cancer Genomics at Queen's University Belfast's Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) and Queen's lead on the programme, said: "This Precision Medicine approach, where we match the right patient to the right treatment, has the potential to revolutionise how we treat this deadly disease. It will also allow us to spare patients the often debilitating side effects of ineffective therapies, thus improving their quality of life."

Professor Patrick Johnston, Vice-Chancellor of Queen's and a principal investigator of the S-CORT Consortium, said: "I am delighted that Queen's researchers are playing such a prominent role in a UK-wide collaborative programme that has the potential to significantly improve the lives of bowel cancer patients. This is further evidence of Queen's University leading on world class research which will have a lasting impact around the globe."

Head of the S-CORT Consortium, Professor Tim Maughan, based at the University of Oxford, said: "Bowel cancer survival has more than doubled in the last 40 years. But there is still a lot more work to do. Recognising this challenge, we have brought together key partners to develop new ways to tailor treatment to the patients who will benefit the most, and make a significant difference to their chances of beating this common disease."

Margaret Grayson, Chair of the Northern Ireland Cancer Research Consumer Forum, said: "We are very excited to be an active part of this research programme that has a clear line of sight to us, the cancer patients."

Craigavon based biotech company, Almac Diagnostics are a key partner in the initiative. Professor Richard Kennedy, McClay Professor of Experimental Medicine (CCRCB) at Queen's and Vice-President and Medical Director of Almac Diagnostics, said: "We see the potential for industry and academia to work together in partnership to develop new tests that will predict which patients will respond to different therapies. This research has the potential not only to improve patient outcomes in Northern Ireland and across the UK, it also can contribute to the local economy."

The announcement is made during Bowel Cancer Awareness month and represents a significant commitment from MRC and CRUK in developing a more personalised medicine strategy in this common cancer.

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Notes to Editors:

Professor Mark Lawler is available for interview. Interview bids to Queen's Communications Office on comms.office@qub.ac.uk or Tel. 028 9097 3087.

*Stratification in COloRecTal cancer or S-CORT is a consortium made up of the following partners: University of Oxford; Queen's University Belfast; University of Birmingham; University of Leeds; Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute; MRC Clinical Trials Unit; Kings College London; University of Aberdeen; University College London; Almac; Astra Zeneca; Glaxo Smith Kline; Beating Bowel Cancer; Northern Ireland Cancer Research Consumers Forum; European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer; Cardiff University; Ku Leuven; European Alliance for Personalised Medicine; The University of Manchester; European CanCer Organisation

The funding for S-CORT is split evenly between the Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK.

Professor Manuel Salto-Tellez (CCRCB), Director of the Northern Ireland Molecular Pathology Laboratory and Professor Richard Wilson (CCRCB), Director of the Northern Ireland Clinical Trials Centre, are also key members of the Consortium.

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