Cancer screening and prevention

For many years screening and prevention has been highlighted as an important area for research and the government has invested billions of pounds into national screening programmes for breast, bowel and cervical cancer. 

Cancer screening and prevention is a designated research theme in the research strategy of The Christie. This research theme goes beyond The Christie and integrates with activities and investigators at the Manchester Cancer Research Centre (MCRC) and Manchester Academic Health Science Centre (MAHSC). We expect The Christie will be the lead site for the screening and prevention theme across the MCRC and MAHSC.

The Cancer Screening and Prevention Committee (led by Gareth Evans, Professor of Medical Genetics and Cancer Epidemiology) is now focused on establishing and maintaining high-quality research inputs and outputs in focused areas of cancer screening and prevention (breast, colorectal, gynaecological and lung cancers).

There is a wide range of research activities currently carried out under the theme of cancer screening and prevention, including:

  • Cancer screening (e.g. explanation of variation in uptake, for example, in patients with diabetes)
  • Person-level risk assessment (e.g. genetic polymorphism, mammographic density-linked scoring systems)
  • Population-level risk assessment (e.g. obesity-related epidemiology)
  • Chemoprevention and vaccination interventions
  • Other interventions (e.g. lifestyle changes)
  • Behavioural change research
  • Early detection research (e.g. enhanced blood and imaging biomarker research)
  • Prevention of cancer treatment-related cancer (e.g. late-effects research)

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer risk prediction and prevention is a key research programme. The principal investigators in this programme are Anthony Howell, Professor of Medical Oncology (Christie NHS Foundation Trust) and Gareth Evans, Professor of Medical Genetics and Cancer Epidemiology (Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust).

One in eight women develops breast cancer during their lifetime in the UK. Breast cancer remains the most common tumour in women and the incidence continues to increase with over 50,000 new cases per year. Because of the increase and the availability of agents such as tamoxifen there is more emphasis on prevention of the disease. However, a limitation of the preventive use of tamoxifen, for example, is the large numbers of at-risk women needed to prevent one cancer, which in turn is an indication of the deficiencies of our methods to predict risk of the disease. Thus the aim of our studies in this programme is to improve risk prediction and to devise more effective methods for prevention by enhancing current approaches and attempting to devise novel ones. These are exemplified in our population-based PROCAS study that has recruited 57,000 women in Greater Manchester.

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer risk prediction and prevention is another key research programme. The principal investigator in this research programme is Andrew Renehan, Professor of Cancer Studies and Surgery, supported by the clinical leads in the GI-DOG (Miss Sarah T O'Dwyer and Dr Mark P Saunders), the Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology (CEP) Group (Professor Caroline Dive) at the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research, and the Health eResearch Centre (HeRC) (Professor Iain Buchan).

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK with over 35,000 new cases per year. Unlike other common cancers, survival rates have improved only slightly in the past two decades as over a third of patients present with advanced disease – this underpins the importance of cancer prevention in this tumour group.

Team objectives

  • The 10-year vision is to be a world-leading cancer prevention research centre
  • Shorter-term objectives feeding into the long-term vision
  • Improving research infrastructure
  • Improving the localisation and co-ordination of existing research
  • Increasing number of patients recruited into clinical trials and the choices available to them in the long term
  • To focus research activity on achieving high-impact outputs
  • Increasing grant and commercial funding for clinical research
  • Quality publications in high-impact, peer-reviewed journals