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£75,000 project to tackle UK’s biggest cancer killer

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Press release issued: 25 January 2014

A team at the University of Bristol has won £75,000 funding to tackle lung cancer - the UK’s biggest cancer killer.

The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation is funding the project, which aims to look for genetic markers in the blood which could identify lung cancer at a very early stage, when it can still be cured.

Researchers will look at thousands of blood samples, taken from lung cancer patients several years before they were diagnosed, and compare them with blood samples from healthy patients.

They are looking for something called an epigenetic mark, which is a biochemical change in the body that directly affects DNA, turning some genes on and turning others off.

If the researchers can identify an epigenetic change which could lead to a person developing lung cancer, this could result in the development of a simple blood test to diagnose the disease.

Professor Caroline Relton, from the School of Social and Community Medicine at the University of Bristol, said: "We are very excited about this new project as it applies research that we have been doing at Bristol University in the field of epigenetics in other contexts to lung cancer.

“We will be working with leading cancer researchers from the International Agency for Research in Cancer and the results of this study will feed into an ongoing world-wide study of early predictors of lung cancer, so there is potential for high impact."

Despite being the biggest killer, lung cancer receives only seven per cent* of cancer research funding but the charity hopes to significantly boost this over the next decade.

Consultant oncologist David Gilligan, from Addenbrookes and Papworth Hospitals in Cambridge, who is head of the charity’s grants committee, said: “There is only £425 spent on research for every person who dies from lung cancer compared to £3,509 for breast cancer, which is one of the reasons breast cancer has much higher survival rates.

“We are aiming to increase the amount of life-saving lung cancer research we are funding but we cannot do it alone. While we are delighted to announce these latest projects, we could, and should, be doing so much more.”

For more information about The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, or to make a donation, please visit the charity’s website.

Further information

*According to the National Cancer Research Institute.