Belfast Telegraph

We'll boost survival to 75% in 20 years, vows cancer chief

By Victoria O'Hara

Cancer research carried out in Northern Ireland will play a key role in significantly boosting the number of people who survive a diagnosis by 10 years across the UK, a leading specialist has said.

Current figures show that across most types of cancer, more than 50% of people now survive for a decade or longer. This is compared to 25% of patients in the 1970s and Cancer Research UK is aiming to stretch that further, to 75%, within two decades.

Chief executive of CRUK, the world's leading cancer charity, Dr Harpal Kumar, said its new strategy was to increase current survival rates by a further 25% within the next 20 years by getting the best scientists in the world on board.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Dr Kumar said clinical trials and major research in Northern Ireland would play a huge part in reaching the target that could save thousands of lives.

"Northern Ireland is a big part of our activity, we invest more than a couple of million pounds a year in Belfast, particularly in terms of research.

"There is a lot of really important research going on, particularly bowel and breast cancers," he said.

Dr Kumar visited Belfast to speak to leading cancer experts, including Vice-Chancellor of Queen's University Belfast Professor Patrick Johnston, about the charity's strategy to battle the disease.

Belfast has developed into a world leader of both research and trials.

"In Northern Ireland we have a really good clinical trial set-up and we have a network of nurses that we jointly support with the Northern Ireland government to make sure we get people on clinical trials and give them options for treatment that they otherwise might not have," he said.

He admits, however, despite the improvement in survival rates more work is needed to tackle lung and pancreatic cancer but adds that there are "exciting developments" regarding new drugs.

"In many types of cancer there are new drugs emerging which look very promising and promising enough that we would be talking not just about extending life for a few months but actually extending life for years and possibly curing people," he said.

But Dr Kumar said the main challenge was how patients can be diagnosed earlier.

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