Queen Mary Bowel Cancer charity urges public to set research agenda

Every hand in the room went up when Professor Charles Knowles asked how many would agree to donate a tissue sample when having an operation.

He posed the question at the launch in east London of a project to get patients and public involved in setting the research agenda into bowel disease.

The show of hands at the seminar held by the Bowel & Cancer Research charity in Whitechapel indicated the level of public support for an active role in research, say organisers.

“What doctors do is go away and write learned articles that few others can understand,” Prof Knowles told his audience.

“All of you here can be ‘ambassadors’ for bowel disease. You can point the way for patients and make it easier for them.”

The 70 people who turned up heard about experiments with human tissue and the latest in surgical techniques to tackle bowel disease.

Paul Reynolds, a cancer survivor and a trustee of the charity, urged people to speak up about bowel disorders, lamenting the fact that breast cancer grabbed the headlines while bowel cancer was taboo.

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It reinforced the fact that bowel disorders are too often swept under the carpet, according to the charity’s chief Deborah Gilbert.

“It’s our job to change that,” she said. “No one should die of bowel cancer, or have to live with chronic bowel disease or with a permanent stoma.”

The charity, based at Whitechapel’s Wingate Institute at London University’s Queen Mary College, hopes the seminar will get ordinary people involved in research “rather than being at the receiving end.”

It has set up an email network to get in touch, on deborah@bowelcancerresearch.org, or online at www.bowelcancerresearch.org