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12 million boost for prevention research

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by Cancer Research UK | News

19 October 2004

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A new £12 million initiative aims to tackle some of the major health problems in the UK, such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, by investing in research into disease prevention. The new National Prevention Research Initiative (NPRI) will be multidisciplinary and involve some of the country’s leading charities, research organisations and government to address the escalating problem.

These conditions affect the health of millions and are major killers in the UK and worldwide. The Initiative will provide funds for studies that have direct relevance on influencing health behaviours aimed at preventing or minimising smoking, alcohol misuse, and encouraging good diet and exercise.

The NPRI, brought together by the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI), is funded by a broad consortium drawn from public funding and charity sectors: British Heart Foundation; Cancer Research UK; Department of Health; Diabetes UK; Economic and Social Research Council; Food Standards Agency; Medical Research Council; Research and Development Office for the Northern Ireland Health and Social Services; Chief Scientist Office, Scottish Executive Health Department; Welsh Assembly Government and World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF UK).

The NPRI welcomes approaches from other organisations wishing to join the consortium, to help grow this important initiative.

Dr Diana Dunstan, who chaired the working party that developed the NPRI, says: “This unique initiative will be looking to fund research which crosses traditional boundaries between disease groups. In the UK we have a number of funding bodies that provide grants to work in their specific area, be that cancer, heart disease or diabetes. This approach has led to many important developments but combining our efforts to focus on common prevention issues will ensure we maximise benefit to the UK public”.

Health Minister, Lord Warner, says: “Preventing disease through trying to change people’s behaviour is key to reducing deaths from major killers such as cancer and heart disease which affect the lives of millions. Initiatives like this bring together the expertise and knowledge of charities, researchers and government to help ensure less people suffer from these devastating conditions. That is why the government is contributing funding to this partnership approach to change health-related behaviour”.

Roger Wilson, cancer patient and Chair of the NCRI Consumer Liaison Group, says: “Research into treatment is making a huge difference to patients but it is also vital that we work on effective ways to prevent disease. It has been exciting to see this important initiative gain commitment from such an impressive list of research organisations. If we can identify better and more effective ways of helping people modify their behaviour we can expect to see fewer people in the future being affected by chronic disease”.

The NPRI is being launched in response to an NCRI report, published today, which shows that research into preventing obesity and encouraging physical activity and reducing smoking rates in the UK is in need of greater investment. In 2002, the NCRI revealed in its Strategic Analysis report that only 2% of the combined spend of NCRI partners was on cancer prevention research.

Smoking, obesity, and lack of exercise are risk factors for cancer and also for coronary heart disease and diabetes. Poor diet is also a known risk factor for all three diseases.

Professor Alex Markham, Chair of the NCRI, says: “The new report has identified gaps in prevention research and helped to focus our attention on areas of scientific opportunity. I am pleased that the new initiative has the backing of other health organisations, along with the NCRI partners, to push forward prevention research in the areas of smoking, alcohol misuse, obesity and exercise. The NPRI will bring together experts across a wide range of science to develop new multidisciplinary approaches to tackling complex research questions”.

The NCRI is a partnership of the 19 largest organisations from the government, charity and industry that undertake cancer research in the UK.

The Medical Research Council on behalf of the funding partners will manage the new Initiative. An Open Meeting is planned for 12 November 2004 to provide further information about the initiative to researchers.