East End will play pivotal role in new cancer study

EAST London will play a crucial role in discovering why cancer survival rates are lower in the UK than the rest of Europe in a revolutionary new study.

Whitechapel’s Queen Mary University recently won �4.7million of government funding for the five-year programme.

Professor Stephen Duffy, leading it, said the East End will prove vital in helping experts understand why the country has a later diagnosis rate.

Because Tower Hamlets is challenged by a diverse population and high deprivation levels, it will make for fertile research ground, the expert said.

He explained: “Here in East London there is a lot of scope for improving the diagnosis and outcome for cancer patients and I would anticipate a lot of the studies be done here.

“We know that poverty and poor health results are linked.”

Research will focus on the levels of awareness of cancer among the public, early symptoms and when GPs refer patients to specialists.

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Recent drives in the East End have led to encouraging results already.

In the past few years, the numbers of women attending their breast screening appointments in Tower Hamlets has risen from less than half to about 60 per cent.

This is put down to initiatives like writing to minority communities in their own language and making appointments in more convenient places at more convenient times.

But London is still behind the rest of the country, where more than 70 per cent of women attend screenings.

The capital also lags behind in bowel cancer screening, with less than 50 per cent taking part compared to a national average of around 60 per cent.

Prof Duffy said cancer screening research will be an important component of the study.

He added: “Treatment here is no different to the rest of Europe but we know that more people are being diagnosed when their cancer is at an advanced stage.

“We’re looking to find out which element of the diagnosis process needs more attention.”

The project is funded by the Department of Health’s Policy Research Programme and involves other universities.