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Celebrating 40 years of life-saving cancer research at Newcastle University this World Cancer Day

4 February 2022

Researchers, clinicians, technicians and leaders at Newcastle University have worked quietly and tirelessly over the past 40 years, contributing to the national effort of doubling cancer survival rates and giving people living with cancer hope and options.

When Newcastle University started its research into cancer in 1982, with just 7 principal investigators, mortality from the disease was at a peak in the UK. Since then, cancer survival rates have doubled – in part because of the efforts of people at Newcastle.

In 40 years we’ve also grown to a team of over 600 researchers, working collaboratively with Cancer Research UK, the Children's Cancer North, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, Newcastle University and The Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in our mission to improve the lives of people living with cancer.

Our pioneering researchers find ways to diagnose cancers more accurately, treat the disease more effectively and make existing treatments kinder to ensure that people live longer and better lives with cancer.

Breakthroughs in cancer care

In 2003, we discovered a complex gene abnormality that gave children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia a very high risk of their cancer returning. By being able to identify this abnormality at diagnosis, we were able to successfully test and prove that by giving more intense treatment to children at highest risk of recurrence, we could give them the highest chance of surviving.

Researchers at Newcastle University were also instrumental in the development of ovarian cancer treatment, Rubraca®. Rubraca® was the first treatment of its kind, targeting a particular weakness in certain types of ovarian cancer to give people more effective treatment with less severe side effects, revolutionising the way doctors aimed to offer treatments to people with cancer. From initial drug discovery through to use with patients, the drug's development can be traced right through our University.

To help make treatment for cancer kinder, we’ve also used our skills in diagnosing types of genetic difference to identify which patients with medulloblastoma (a type of childhood brain tumour) would still be able to stand a high chance of survival with reduced intensity therapies.

This will reduce side effects for children with the easiest to treat type of medulloblastoma, giving them the best chance of living a high quality of life after their treatment has ended. Now, our attention is turning to helping those children whose types of medulloblastoma are hardest to treat successfully.

Every person with cancer deserves the best treatment options and hope of a cure. Research at Newcastle over the past 40 years has made a huge difference to this already, but we still have work to do.

There's still a long way to go

Cancer still accounts for a quarter of all deaths in the UK, and 1 in 2 people will receive a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime.

You can help turn the tide on cancer and contribute to the next 40 years of life-changing discoveries. This World Cancer Day, we’re launching a new campaign to support cancer research at Newcastle.

By donating, you will help improve cancer survival rates by making a direct difference in the laboratory, where our researchers fight every day for the lives of people all over the world who live with cancer.

Over the next 40 years, there is real potential for us to make even the most challenging cancers something that people live with rather than die of. But we can’t do it without our researchers remaining ahead of the curve – and to do that, we need your help.

Support cancer research and care at Newcastle University