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Scientific breakthroughs from one small island could change the world

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by Cancer Research UK | News

28 November 2012

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Game-changing medical advances are within our reach but this ‘one small island’ needs huge investment in science in order to make this a reality, author Bill Bryson will say tonight (Wednesday) at the first Create The Change* science lecture for Cancer Research UK.

Bill Bryson will be joined at the Wellcome Trust by Cancer Research UK’s Dr James Brenton and UCL’s Professor Robin Weiss for an entertaining evening of talks and discussion chaired by Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society and Director of the Francis Crick Institute.

The event is aimed at engaging the public, sharing details of the latest scientific research and examples of the work that will happen in the Francis Crick Institute. The Institute will be the largest bio-medical research laboratory in Europe when it opens in 2015.

Bill Bryson, said: “Science explains everything about us. And there isn’t a single part of science that isn’t incredible. There’s so much potential with science and this is why the Francis Crick Institute could revolutionise medical advances. By bringing together scientists who work on different diseases we can speed up the pace at which discoveries are made. But we need investment in order to make this happen.”

Dr James Brenton, a Cancer Research UK ovarian cancer expert, said: “As a clinician treating cancer patients, I am hugely excited by the potential the Crick offers. We’ve come a long way in the past few decades – there are better drugs, more sophisticated treatments, cancers are diagnosed earlier – but there’s still so much to do. And it’s because the challenge is so complex that we increasingly need to combine forces with scientists from other fields to help continue this progress and speed up breakthroughs.

“It may sound like an unlikely collaboration, but tonight I’ll be illustrating how working with astronomers has brought about new ways of analysing pathology slides to identify cancer biomarkers. But there are surprising similarities between pinpointing a cancer cell hidden in amongst normal tissue and isolating a single star within a crowded galaxy – both require scientists to pick out indistinct object from amongst large data sets. This is just one example of how uniting the scientific community can bring about often unparalleled progress in cancer.”

Sir Paul Nurse, chief executive of the Francis Crick Institute and President of the Royal Society, said: “Science can improve our health and our quality of life and the UK is a real world leader in biological science.  If we want to maintain that position we need to invest.  We need to have the best people working in the best facilities and that is what the Francis Crick Institute will deliver.”

Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “The Francis Crick Institute is unique – it’s an opportunity for people around the world to invest in one of the most exciting catalysts of scientific innovation we’ll see in this generation. The Institute will be game-changing for medical research. Millions of people – including cancer patients, but also those suffering from a range of diseases such as heart and neurodegenerative disease – will benefit from this pioneering approach to medical research.”


For media enquiries please contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 0203 469 8300 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.