North-South cancer divide tackled with multi-million pound investment

Health news

Researchers from the University of Leeds have secured a £5 million pound investment aimed at tackling the North-South cancer divide, thanks to a funding award from Yorkshire Cancer Research.

University experts will be working in partnership with Yorkshire Cancer Research and Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust to focus on four main areas of cancer research:

• identifying inequalities and key priorities by analysing Yorkshire cancer data and patient experiences;
• providing better support for patients and the choices they make following diagnosis;
• improving transitions in care, from active disease management to disease monitoring, advanced disease management and end of life care;
• and developing new therapies through the Yorkshire Cancer Research Centre for Early Phase Clinical Trials, based at the University of Leeds.

It is the first time the charity has commissioned such a comprehensive programme of research in its 90 year history. The aim is to deliver significant benefits to people in Yorkshire.

The programme will be led by some of the region’s most outstanding cancer researchers, including Professor Paul Stewart, Dean of Medicine and Health at the University of Leeds, and Professor Julia Brown, Director of the Leeds Institute of Clinical Trials Research.

Professor Stewart said: “We aim to tackle an unmet need in patient outcome-focused research, addressing the full circle of a cancer patients’ experience, from diagnosis to treatment and care, and we are looking for the brightest and best for Yorkshire to help us fulfil this.”

The funding will enable the region to attract future world-leading scientists and clinicians which will be essential to develop and expand the range of cancer research activities taking place in Yorkshire.

The Office of National Statistics recently released figures which show that the Yorkshire region has the third highest cancer incidence rates in England (1), following the North East and the North West. Yorkshire also has higher than average mortality rates for many of the most common cancers, including lung, colorectal, bladder and cervical cancer.

In addition, there are clear variations in cancer incidence, mortality and survival rates within the county itself, with hotspots in areas such as Hull and parts of West and South Yorkshire.

Charles Rowett, Chief Executive Officer at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: “The North-South divide in cancer incidence and mortality rates is extremely alarming. National funding for cancer research is currently concentrated far too heavily in London and the South East and is therefore failing to address the enormous disparities in cancer outcomes that exist in Yorkshire and the North of England.

“There are many reasons for the cancer problems in our county, including high levels of smoking and alcohol consumption, rapidly rising obesity rates, various socio-economic factors and our industrial past.  We also believe that there are distinct inequalities in terms of access to the best treatment and care. It is vital that charities, the NHS, universities and other organisations work together to understand more about what is causing these problems and increase their investment in resources  and initiatives that will address these issues.”

Yorkshire accounts for 8.3% of the UK population, and yet currently receives just 4.2% of the total amount of charity money spent on cancer research in the country, according to data provided by the Association of Medical Research Charities.

Studies will be undertaken to improve diagnostic and screening services so that more people are diagnosed at an early stage, when the cancer is easier to treat, and to ensure all patients have equal access to gold standard treatments.

With the number of people living with cancer expected to double by 2030 (2), the research will also look at the long-term consequences of treatment and enable patients to make more informed choices about their care.

Dr Yvette Oade, Chief Medical Officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Yorkshire Cancer Research and the University of Leeds to improve cancer outcomes in Yorkshire. We are absolutely committed to addressing the issues in our region and this funding will play a vital role in helping the NHS deliver the best possible treatment and care.”

Further information

Contact: Nikki Brady, Senior PR Officer, Yorkshire Cancer Research. Tel: 01423 877228. Email:

1 Cancer Registration Statistics, England, 2013
2 People living with cancer, Macmillan, 2012