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Cancer Research UK and Channel 4 to broadcast world’s first TV advert live from inside the human body

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by Cancer Research UK | News

16 January 2017

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In a global broadcasting first, Cancer Research UK and Channel 4 will air a live colonoscopy during an ad break on 18 January 2017.

“We want viewers to join us to experience the unique insight of seeing live inside the human body, and witness a procedure that can actually prevent cancer from developing.” – Ed Aspel, Cancer Research UK

The 90 second advert, titled ‘Live from the Inside’, will be shown at approximately 3.25pm and represents the first time this procedure has been performed live in an ad break. It will provide viewers with a unique opportunity to watch the removal of bowel polyps* as it takes place. While most polyps don’t develop into cancer, some do, therefore removing them can help prevent bowel cancer developing.

Live footage will be seen from a camera which is linked to a flexible tube called a colonoscope. The advert will then show the removal of bowel polyps through the colonoscope.

The advert is part of Cancer Research UK’s ‘Right Now’ campaign. Launched on Boxing Day, the campaign shows the reality of day-to-day life for those affected by cancer, bringing together the real stories of patients and their loved ones, researchers and medical staff.

By broadcasting the procedure live, the charity aims to show the positive impact research has had on helping to beat cancer, highlighting it is only through investment in research that simpler and more effective tests and treatments have been developed. The advert will show that thanks to research, there are many things happening across the UK right now to help prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.

The procedure will be performed and filmed at Cardiff and Vale University hospital by Doctor Sunil Dolwani. An expert in removing complex bowel polyps, Doctor Dolwani will explain what viewers can see throughout the live broadcast.  Cancer Research UK will be streaming live on Facebook with a cancer nurse to answer viewers’ questions and the ad will also be available across Channel 4’s social media accounts.

The patient, Philip McSparron, will have the colonoscopy after tests done as part of the routine bowel cancer screening programme picked up hidden traces of blood in his poo. Further tests showed Philip had two bowel polyps, which will be removed during the procedure.

In the run up to the live event 10 second teasers will launch on 16 January on Channel 4. Viewers will have the chance to see a 60 second version of the ad on the 18 January at approximately 9.30pm in the second break of Channel 4 drama No Offence – currently attracting an average overnight audience of 1.9 million viewers.

Ed Aspel, executive director of fundraising and marketing at Cancer Research UK said: “Broadcasting Philip’s colonoscopy live gives us the opportunity to show one of the many people across the UK who is benefitting from procedures that wouldn’t be possible without research. We want viewers to join us to experience the unique insight of seeing live inside the human body, and witness a procedure that can actually prevent cancer from developing.

“Half of us will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime so it’s important to break down barriers, encourage conversation and show the progress that is being made in beating cancer. It’s our ambition to speed up progress so that within the next 20 years, three in four people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years. At Cancer Research UK, we rely on people’s generosity as we don’t receive any government funding for our life-saving research. We hope our live advert will show the impact research has made so far, and inspire people to see how their support can enable continued work to beat cancer.”

Danny Peace, agency principal from Channel 4 said: “This partnership with Cancer Research UK delivers a truly unique and highly engaging experience for viewers whilst conveying a very important message. We’re really excited to build upon 4 Sales’ legacy for industry leading ad break innovations.”

Doctor Dolwani said: “When I was asked to be part of this advert I was keen that we use the opportunity to highlight the colonoscopy procedure that can remove bowel polyps, diagnose cancer earlier and through helping start treatment early save lives. In the early stages of having a polyp or bowel cancer people may not have any symptoms and the home screening test is simple to do. I hope viewers will be interested to see what happens during a colonoscopy to remove bowel polyps and I am thankful to Philip for allowing us to show his procedure.”

Patient Philip McSparron said: “My brother’s bowel cancer was caught early in 2010 and since then, I’ve been careful to go for screening. By allowing my colonoscopy to be shown live, I hope to show that it’s a simple procedure, not something to be frightened of. Hopefully people will be interested in seeing the live footage and it will encourage them to be more willing to talk about cancer and think about taking up regular screening when offered.”

To find out more about the work of Cancer Research UK visit