The bowel is one of the main parts of the digestive system, which is subdivided into the small bowel (small intestine) and the large bowel (colon and rectum). Bowel cancer is the 4th most common cancer in the UK, with around 42,900 new bowel cancer cases and around 16,600 bowel cancer deaths in the UK every year, a statistic that highlights the need for new ways to treat patients with aggressive disease. In Northern Ireland, this equates to approximately 1,200 people diagnosed with bowel cancer each year, and between 400-600 deaths. A number of treatment options are available but mortality rates remain high, with bowel cancer the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK. In addition, we know that early detection and early treatment is important to improve patient outcomes.
The PGJCCR has a large, multidisciplinary team of biologists (Dr Emma Kerr, Dr Philip Dunne), consultants (Prof Vicky Coyle), epidemiologists (Prof Helen Coleman, Dr Emma Allott), and data analysts (Dr Simon McDade) working on Bowel Cancer, from diagnosis to treatment resistance (Prof Dan Longley, Dr Sandra Van Schaeybroeck). Some of our research projects spread across multiple schools and departments, coordinating with the Public Health Agency and even the School of Maths and Physics; a cost-effectiveness model for colorectal cancer screening in Northern Ireland is being built and developed by Dr Felicity Lamrock, Prof Mark Lawler and a cancer health economist, Miss Ethna McFerran.
Dr Ian Overton is currently leading a project using bioinformatics, to refine stratification of stage II and III colorectal cancer patients, aiming to provide robust therapeutic strategies, within a collaboration with the school of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
One of our students has made strides in exploring colorectal cell biology to use drug combinations that improve treatment. Another one uses maths and statistics to decipher the most cost-effective strategy for screening and early diagnosis.
We also invite you to follow the journey of a former bowel cancer patient who is keen to mobilise and bring awareness to research in this field, and just recently visited the Kerr lab, in our Centre.
Useful information can be found in Cancer Focus NI
The symptoms outlined below are often caused by something less serious and don’t usually mean its cancer. However, finding cancer early makes it more treatable and a trip to your doctor could save your life. So if in doubt get checked out.
- Bleeding from the rectum (back passage) and/or blood in your bowel movement lasting 2-3 weeks
- A change in bowel habit lasting 6 weeks or more (e.g. more frequent or looser bowel movements)
- Unexplained tiredness
- Unexplained weight loss
- A pain or lump in your abdomen (stomach)
Guest Editor: Dr Philip Dunne