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Cancer Research UK announces largest ever investment in Scotland

by Amy Warnock | News

20 September 2023

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CRUK Scotland Institute

Today, Cancer Research UK announced its largest ever investment in Scotland of up to £123m.  

This funding is being provided as part of a seven-year commitment to the Cancer Research UK Scotland Institute (formerly known as the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute). 

As well as supporting research into new and improved cancer treatments and diagnosis, this funding will bolster Scotland as a major global hub for cancer research on an increasingly competitive worldwide stage. It will also aid in attracting international research talent to the Institute. 

Professor Owen Sansom, who is the director of the Cancer Research UK Scotland Institute which is based within the University of Glasgow’s Garscube campus, said the news was “an unprecedented vote of confidence in Scotland’s scientific prowess”.    

With a long heritage of success in finding new ways to tackle cancer in Scotland the Institute is very much a national centre of excellence and will be key to us achieving our ultimate goal of beating cancer sooner. 

Its researchers represent some of the best scientists from around the world who have come together to work towards better outcomes for patients today and in the future.

- Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK

Delivering more discovery research 

Around 34,100 people are diagnosed with cancer every year in Scotland, and while death rates have fallen in the past decade, it is vital to find new ways to tackle the disease.  

World-class researchers at the Cancer Research UK Scotland Institute are already studying many aspects of cancer prevention and treatment, including looking at how cancer can begin, the genetics of cancer and how the immune system responds to cancer.  

Now, this funding will help to underpin new long-term discovery research exploring how cancers develop, grow and spread, with the aim of finding new ways to screen for the disease and develop new treatments.  

It will also support major studies into specific types of cancer which have a big impact on Scotland’s population, including liver, pancreatic, bowel and lung.  

We welcome Cancer Research UK’s announcement of renewed funding for the Cancer Research UK Scotland Institute, which demonstrates its success as a national centre of excellence.

It is testimony to the excellence and innovation that the Institute delivers, and this funding will help ensure it continues its internationally recognised research work.

- Michael Matheson, Scotland Health Secretary

Finding new treatment targets 

One example of the cutting-edge research already being carried out at the Institute is a recently published study on imaging in cancer.   

The study, led by Professor Owen Sansom, used a combination of mass spectrometry technologies, which help to analyse which types of molecules are present in a sample, and imaging techniques to study bowel cancer. 

This helped to pinpoint an enzyme called adenosylhomocysteinase (AHCY) which appears to be key to the growth of bowel cancer. Importantly, when the team suppressed this enzyme in mouse cell models of bowel cancer, they saw that cancer growth slowed down.  

The researchers hope that AHCY could be a target for new treatments which may help stop or even prevent the growth of bowel cancer in the future.   

This exciting research offers us a new opportunity to exploit a weakness in bowel cancer with the hope that we can find new treatments which target this weakness and improve the outcomes for people with bowel cancer.

- Professor Owen Sansom, Cancer Research UK Scotland Institute director

This new funding for the Institute could help to uncover more important discoveries and potential treatment targets, such as AHCY, for cancer.  

Claire’s story

The investment in the Institute from Cancer Research UK has been welcomed by Claire, from Glasgow, whose family has been deeply impacted by cancer. She lost both her brother and dad to cancer before facing her own diagnosis.

“I know only too well the impact this terrible disease has on families,” said Claire.

“I was 38 and my younger son was just 18 months old when I was diagnosed with cancer. Mum and I were still struggling with the loss of my brother and my dad as we missed them so much. I remember worrying about even telling my mum that I had cancer. I felt so anxious. Our family had already been through so much.

“But mum was brilliant. She’d come to stay, make dinner for my boys if I didn’t feel great, help keep things ticking along and just listen if I wanted to talk. In 2021 when Mum got news she had breast cancer the tables were turned and I helped her. I’m proud of how my mum has tackled everything. She’s wonderful and l love that she’s well now to enjoy life as a mum and a grandma. If we can help other families facing cancer then we will.   

“While there have been huge advances in treatment options for more common cancers like breast cancer, there is so much more to do. It’s brilliant to know that this world class, life-saving research is happening right here in Scotland and in the heart of the city where we live.”

Now Claire and her mum, Anne, who are both in remission, have vowed to do everything they can to help give others more moments with their loved ones.


Building excellence in Scotland 

This funding award follows a comprehensive review of the Institute led by an independent panel of international cancer experts.    

In recognition of the success of the Institute as a national centre of excellence, and to enable wider global recognition, the facility – formerly known as the Beatson Institute – will have the new title of the Cancer Research UK Scotland Institute.  

Cancer Research UK invests around £33m in Scotland each year, including the Cancer Research UK Scotland Institute and grants awarded to research groups at universities across Scotland.    

The charity also funds Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres (ECMCs) in Glasgow and Edinburgh. These form part of a network of 17 ECMCs across the UK which deliver clinical trials of new experimental treatments in patients in conjunction with local NHS facilities.   

“This recognition of the hard work and determination of our researchers to find new ways to tackle cancer, as well as improve current treatments, is a major boost for both future cancer patients in Scotland and for the newly titled Cancer Research UK Scotland Institute,” added Professor Sansom. 

This investment reflects our confidence that Scotland can go even further in becoming a major competitor on an increasingly competitive worldwide cancer research stage as we aim for a ‘golden era’ of life sciences. 

None of this would be possible without the hard work and dedication of those who donate and fundraise for Cancer Research UK in Scotland and across the UK.

- Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK