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Help us fill the gap in cancer research

Look at the stats for cancer and it tells a story of success. Since Worldwide Cancer Research started 40 years ago, survival rates have doubled. Better diagnostic tests, more targeted therapies and a better understanding of how to prevent cancer have all played a part. In that sense, cancer research is a success story. But if you look at the stats a little closer there is also a story of failure – a failure to react to the gaps emerging in survival rates for different types of cancer.

Take oesophageal cancer as an example. Less than 1 in 8 people will survive 10 years or more after their diagnosis. Every year, worldwide, there are over 450,000 new cases diagnosed and 400,000 deaths from oesophageal cancer. Over the last 40 years, the proportion of people dying from oesophageal cancer has increased by nearly 50% (although in the last 10 years we have started to see a small decrease).

Other cancers tell a different story. For example, research has been incredibly successful over the last 40 years for improving survival and reducing deaths from breast cancer. In the UK, the proportion of women surviving a breast cancer diagnosis for 10 years or more has risen from around 48% to 78%, and mortality rates have dropped by around 40% since the mid-1980s. However, breast cancer is still the second most common cancer in the world, killing over 500,000 people every year. So it’s understandable that over the years more money has gone into research on breast cancer than oesophageal cancer.

But for people like Elinor Hamilton, who lost her husband Phil to oesophageal cancer, and who herself survived a breast cancer diagnosis, the gap in research, and the gap in funding, is more than just statistics. Elinor, who raised £6,500 by running the London Marathon in support of Worldwide Cancer Research earlier this year, said:

“I feel particularly fortunate that I've benefited from years of research - especially because our children now don't need to face losing another parent. However, it saddens me deeply that research into Phil's type of cancer is so far behind.”

“Worldwide Cancer Research has assured me that all the money I raise will go specifically towards research into oesophageal cancer and hopefully, between us, we can help to ‘Phil the Gap’ between the survival rates for oesophageal and breast cancers.”

Some cancer types, such as oesophageal, are historically underfunded. We want to do more, which is why we are asking people like you to fundraise for us so we can fund more research into all types of cancer, and continue on the progress we have already made. Here are some examples of the advances your money has already helped to deliver.

Developing new treatments

During the 1990s and early 2000s, our supporters funded eleven years of research that allowed Professor Stephen Bown at University College London to test a type of treatment called photodynamic therapy (PDT) in many different tissues and organs to ensure it was safe to use in patients. PDT is now used routinely to treat a disease called Barrett’s oesophagus, which often goes on to cause oesophageal cancer.

Understanding the causes

Research funded by people like you has also revealed some of the changes that occur in cells of the oesophagus when they become cancerous. Thanks to your support, Professor Ted Hupp at the University of Edinburgh was able to pinpoint a particular protein in the cells that helps lead to cancer. Since then, the group has continued to study this protein to learn more about its role in the development of oesophageal cancer and how it also helps cancer cells to spread.

Improving diagnosis

Another project funded by our supporters has helped to find that a specific protein is found at much higher levels in tumour tissue than in normal healthy tissues. This included oesophageal tumours, so the findings could lead to the future development of new tests that use this protein as a “flag” to diagnose cancer earlier.

With your help we can continue to fund the best pioneering research, wherever in the world that may be. With your support, we can fund more research into all cancers to realise our vision of a world where no life is cut short by cancer.

Thanks for reading. To support Elinor’s mission to ‘Phil the Gap’, please visit to make a donation to our Summer Appeal today.

Science Communications Manager

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