Professor Richard Gilbertson, Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital's research lead, says that Cambridge "can and will play an important part" in delivering Cancer Research UK's new manifesto and backs its bold plan for tackling cancer.
The charity has launched a new manifesto this week that outlines key missions to speed up progress in preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer.
The document 'Longer, better lives: a manifesto for cancer research and care' (opens in a new tab) sets out a raft of measures that could help avoid an estimated 1,800 cancer deaths a year in the East of England by 2040.
Welcoming the manifesto, Professor Richard Gilbertson, Research Lead for Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital, Head of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Oncology and Director of the CRUK Cambridge Centre, said:
"Cancer Research UK’s manifesto for tackling cancer is a bold and ambitious plan – and with one in two people expected to get cancer in their lifetimes, urgently needed. Cambridge can and will play an important part in helping realise this ambition."Professor Richard Gilbertson, Research Lead for Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital
He said: "Our scientists and clinicians – working in tandem with patients and the public – are at the forefront of research and innovation that will enable us to catch the disease at a much earlier stage, when it is easier to treat, and to offer better and more precise and personalised treatments and improved care.
"All of these elements will come together in our world-class Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital, transforming clinical pathways to benefit patients across the UK and save many more lives. Together, we will change the story of cancer."
The future specialist cancer research hospital will combine clinical expertise from Addenbrooke's Hospital with cutting-edge research from the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre and the University of Cambridge.
The project had its Outline Business Case approved in August 2023 and pre-construction works are set to begin in 2024.
Thanks to research, cancer survival in the UK has doubled since the 1970s.
"Research into better treatments has given me the greatest gift – more time with my loved ones."Lucy Edie, cancer patient and CRUK staff member
A mum from Impington has also backed the launch of the manifesto, sharing how she might not be here today without early detection and research.
Lucy Edie, 53, was diagnosed with triple-positive breast cancer in April 2019. She started working for Cancer Research UK in 1999 and believes she owes her life to drugs and programmes the charity helped to develop.
Lucy said: “I’d always believed research was the answer to the problem of cancer, but I’d never felt it so viscerally before my own diagnosis and treatment."
It was whilst away for a work event Lucy first discovered a grape-sized lump on her left breast.
She said: “I think, if you work for a cancer organisation, you’re always hyper-aware and wondering if you’re worrying about nothing, but in this case I absolutely knew and called the doctors the very next morning.”
Lucy was not the first in her family to be diagnosed with cancer, having recently lost her mum to a brain tumour and previously a grandfather and an uncle to prostate cancer. Her dad is currently being treated for stomach cancer.
She said: “In between finding the lump and getting my diagnosis, all I did was fear the worst.
“As well as feeling scared about what lay ahead, I was concerned my dad had just gone through bereavement, whilst my son, Alexander, was still a child, only 11 at the time. He was really close to his grandmother and still dealing with that grief, trying to make sense of it, so I just felt anything happening to me would have been a massive blow. I thought ‘I can’t die’."
How targeted therapies made a difference
Lucy’s cancer was found to produce large amounts of a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) and this led to a morale-boosting conversation with her oncologist.
“He told me ‘You work for Cancer Research UK, so you’ll know that before the drug Herceptin this would have been a really difficult conversation, but now this is very treatable’.”
Herceptin is a targeted cancer drug that was developed from research funded by Cancer Research UK. It works by attaching to HER2, stopping the cancer cells from growing and dividing.
In addition to Herceptin taken over the course of nine months, Lucy’s treatment included six months of chemotherapy and surgery to remove the lump in her breast, plus three lymph nodes from her armpit.
“I feel so lucky to have had such supportive family, friends and colleagues, and to have been treated by the very best of clinicians, supported by the very best research, right here in Cambridge.Lucy Edie, cancer patient
This was confirmed as her best course of treatment when she joined the Personalised Breast Cancer Programme. The programme was pioneered at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge and sees patients have their DNA read like a barcode, with the whole genome of their tumour sequenced.
After a successful operation, fully removing what was left of the tumour after chemotherapy, Lucy underwent three weeks of radiotherapy to try and reduce the chance of it coming back.
Since March 2020, Lucy has taken daily letrozole tablets. When she started, she was told she would have to take them for 10 years, but subsequent research into their effectiveness means Lucy might be able to finish taking them as early as next year.
She said: “If my diagnosis had come 15 years earlier, it might not have been treatable – but my story shows there’s hope.”