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But behind the shiny big windows of the modern building in London Road, incredible work is being carried out to make the lives of all of us in Merseyside and the North West better, now and in the future.
So here’s 10 things you should know about North West Cancer Research…
North West Cancer Research can trace its roots back to 1948 when it was started in Liverpool by a group of friends who came together and formed the Friends of the Liverpool Radium Institute. Starting around the same time as the NHS, they wanted to improve the health of those around them by supporting research and treatments around cancer, of which little was then known.
NWCR aims to tackle the causes of cancer and prevent it, improve the care of those who are diagnosed with it, and, ultimately, find a cure. Vital work has already been carried out, and success achieved, but with more than 200 different cancers and different responses to treatment, much more research is needed.
More than 50 active research projects are being carried out at any one time from ‘bench to bedside’; that means in the lab where its scientists spend hours, days, weeks, months, and years carrying out ground-breaking work, to studies in the communities and hospitals familiar to us.
Current projects include one to develop an early indicator test for prostate cancer, and another to discover whether a combined treatment of certain drugs with radiotherapy could provide a more targeted effect and improved treatment for patients with head and neck cancer, a major concern in the region.
Since 2000, North West Cancer Research has funded £45 million of world-class research – making it the biggest investor of research in the area.
North West Cancer Research focuses on cancers which are more common to the Merseyside and North West area, and targets its research on those. Although 1 in 2 people will develop cancer, that probability is raised by another 25% in the North West, making the work it does absolutely essential. Head and neck cancer, lung, liver and pancreatic cancer are among those at the heart of the work it does.
NWCR is an independent charity and relies solely on donations for the important work it carries out. That means every penny matters – whether it’s pence, a few pounds or hundreds of pounds.
£20 will cover the cost of materials needed to deliver cancer education and prevention to one primary school; £35 can aid researchers in testing the effects of a new drug to improve cancer recovery, and £50 can support an hour’s work from a senior cancer scientist in creating personalised treatments to reduce painful side effects.
40% of cancers are preventable, and making people aware of that and what they can do is a big part of North West Cancer Research’s work, says Cara Newton, head of marketing and fundraising. NWCR goes out into the community – nurseries, schools, sheltered housing units, bingo halls, activity groups, workplaces, and more – educating around 12,500 people from three to 90 each year about how they can improve their health and reduce their risk.
“It’s never too early to start so, from age three, we go out with our mascot, Hope Bear. She goes on a teddy bears’ picnic and the children decide which food is taken, so we talk about a balanced diet,” says Cara. “And, if she wants to go on holiday, we make sure she takes appropriate sunscreen.”
The education progresses and changes depending on who it’s being targeted at – older children learn about being sun safe at a ‘Sun Safe Ninja Academy’ – but it’s all made fun and brought to life with activities and information that gets people thinking, in a non-judgemental way.
Cara and her team are happy to visit any groups, schools or workplaces. “We don’t want to frighten people,” adds Cara. “But helping to understand the risks helps to empower people; to know whether, if they are at high risk of a certain cancer, there is something they can do and, if not, what the signs and symptoms are that they can spot.” Anyone wanting NWCR to come to them can call the office on 0151 709 2919, or go to their website: www.nwcr.org All visits are age-appropriate and Cara adds: “It doesn’t cost anything, it’s free.”
Although NWCR focuses on cancers most likely to affect people here, it shares its findings and works with people across the world. It is currently collaborating with 13 other national research teams and organisations, and 22 global ones. With each potentially providing a piece to the puzzle it makes the likelihood of NWCR, and others, finding the solutions and treatments more likely – and quicker – than ever.
Like every other person and organisation, North West Cancer Research was hit by the pandemic, unable to go out into the community to help people understand cancer and the work they do, and in the donations it normally receives. Cara says income was down significantly in the last year – so it needs people’s help more than ever. Contact NWCR if you want to donate money or fundraise – it has fundraising packs with ideas from sporting events to coffee mornings you can hold.
Cara says: “We all know Merseyside is very special, and we are part of it, we live in the community, and we understand it.
“Ground-breaking research is happening here that targets the cancers that affect us and will create long-term benefits for us.”
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