Bowel cancer briefsheet _pdf_ - Cancer Research UK

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					Bowel cancer briefsheet
Bowel cancer, also called colorectal cancer, is the third most common cancer in the UK. Each year,
nearly 40,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with the disease and it claims around 16,000 lives.*
Thanks to our supporters, Cancer Research UK is the largest funder of bowel cancer research in the UK.

Facts and figures                                         Our impact                                      What could affect
• Bowel cancer accounts for one in                        • Our research into bowel cancer goes
  eight new cancer cases in the UK.                         back to the 1920s when we supported           your risk?
                                                            Dr Cuthbert Dukes. His team devised
• It is the second most common cause                                                                      Age
   of cancer death in the UK, claiming                      the Dukes staging system to classify
                                                                                                          The risk of bowel cancer increases
   around 44 lives each day.                                bowel cancer, which is still used today.
                                                                                                          with age. More than nine out of ten
• Half of patients diagnosed with bowel                   • Our scientists located a gene called          cases occur in people over 50.
  cancer will survive their disease for at                  APC. Faults in this gene are associated
                                                            with an extremely high risk of                A previous polyp or bowel cancer
  least 10 years.                                                                                         If you have had a polyp removed from
                                                            developing bowel cancer.
What is bowel cancer?                                     • We funded pivotal clinical trials that have
                                                                                                          your bowel, or if you have had bowel
                                                                                                          cancer before, you are at increased
The cells lining the inside of the bowel are                changed the way bowel cancer patients         risk of developing the disease.
constantly dying and being replaced with                    are treated.
new cells. If the genes in some of these cells                                                            Chronic bowel inflammation
                                                          • Our strong campaigning efforts helped
become damaged, then this process of                                                                      People with Crohn’s disease, or a
                                                            make a life-saving bowel screening
renewal can go wrong. These abnormal cells                                                                condition called ulcerative colitis
                                                            programme a reality.
can form a polyp, a small ‘mushroom-                                                                      have a slightly increased risk of
shaped’ growth. Polyps are usually harmless                                                               bowel cancer.
but some can develop into cancer. Over
time, some of the cancer cells can break
                                                           Bowel cancer screening                         Diet
away and spread to other parts of the body,                If detected at an early stage, more            A diet that is high in red or processed
making the cancer more difficult to treat.                 than eight out of ten cases of bowel           meat, or low in fibre can increase the
                                                           cancer can be successfully treated.            risk of bowel cancer.
                                                           Professor Wendy Atkin (London)                 Weight
                                                liver      coordinated a national trial, which            Being overweight increases the risk of
                                                           we helped fund, of a revolutionary             bowel cancer.
                                                stomach    screening test known as flexible
                                                           sigmoidoscopy (also known as                   Physical activity
                                                           “flexi sig”). This involves inserting          The more active a person is, the lower
                                                large      a flexible plastic tube, fitted with a         their risk of bowel cancer.
                                                           miniature camera, into the bowel to            Smoking and alcohol
                                                small      detect and remove polyps before                Drinking alcohol increases the risk of
                                                bowel      they can develop into cancer.                  bowel cancer. Smoking also increases
                                                           The test can also be used to detect            the risk of the disease.
                                                rectum     existing bowel cancers so that the             Family history
                                                           patient can receive appropriate                Around one third of cases are thought
                                                           treatment. Based on the success                to be inherited. Some people are born
How is bowel cancer treated?                               of this trial, flexi sig will soon be          with a higher risk of bowel cancer due
Surgery is the main treatment for bowel                    incorporated into a national bowel             to inheriting a faulty gene from one or
cancer, but chemotherapy and radiotherapy                  screening programme where it could             both of their parents. Other people
may also be given. 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) is the            reduce the bowel cancer death rate             inherit a combination of gene variants
most common drug used in chemotherapy.                     among those screened by 43 per cent,           that each contribute to a small
Other drugs include capecitabine, irinotecan,              saving thousands of lives each year.           increase in risk.
oxaliplatin and utforal.

May 2011            *latest available figures
   Our research into bowel cancer
People diagnosed with bowel cancer are twice as likely to survive their disease for at least ten
years than those diagnosed in the 1970s and we are at the heart of this progress. We spent nearly
£25 million on bowel cancer research last year – here are just a few examples of our life-saving work:

Understanding bowel cancer                                          Prevention and early detection                      Improving treatment
Understanding how bowel cancer cells                                Our researchers want to help identify people        We are committed to finding better ways
behave will help us design better strategies to                     most in need of personalised screening and          to treat bowel cancer. In Leeds, Professor
prevent, detect and target the disease.                             prevention advice. Professors Ian Tomlinson         David Sebag-Montefiore is conducting a
Professor Alan Ashworth (London) is                                 (Oxford), Malcolm Dunlop (Edinburgh), and           clinical trial to see if new drug combinations
studying the genetic faults that lie at the heart                   Richard Houlston (London) are hunting for           improve patient survival. One of our
of bowel cancer growth. His team has already                        genes associated with increased risk of bowel       Birmingham-based surgeons, Jim Hill, is
found an important ‘Achilles’ heel’ in bowel                        cancer. Professors Roland Wolf (Dundee) and         tackling the problem of bowel obstruction.
cancer cells so his next challenge is to                            Tim Bishop (Leeds) are studying how                 He is investigating whether putting an
translate this knowledge into safer, more                           combinations of lifestyle and genetics affect       expanding tube (a stent) in the bowel is
effective treatments for patients.                                  bowel cancer risk.                                  more effective than emergency surgery.

Other research highlights from across the UK
1 Dundee: Professor Inke Näthke is using stem
cells from the gut to understand how bowel cancer                                                                   2 Belfast: Professor Paddy Johnston wants to
develops. This could pave the way for improved                                                                         identify genes that control the response of
methods to detect and treat this disease.                                                                                     bowel cancer cells to chemotherapy.
                                                                                                1                              This could lead to the development
3 Leeds: Professor Eva Morris is looking at the                                                                                             of more effective drugs.
links between inequalities of bowel cancer care
and survival. This will help ensure that all bowel
cancer patients receive the best possible care.                                                                         4 Cambridge: Dr Ashraf Ibrahim is looking
                                                                                  2                                            at ways to diagnose bowel cancer
                                                                                                                                 at a very early stage when it can
5 Cardiff: Professor Alan Clarke                                                                                                           be successfully treated.
is searching for molecules made by
bowel cancer cells that could be
targeted by new drugs.
                                                                                                                                6 London: Dr Charles Swanton is
                                                                                                                    4              trying to understand why some
7 Southampton: Professor                                                                         5                                bowel cancers become resistant
John Primrose is asking whether                                                                                     6                 to treatment. This could help
a drug called cetuximab improves                                                                                                  doctors predict who will benefit
survival in patients with advanced                                                                                                     most from a particular drug.
bowel cancer.

  Jim’s story
  ‘When I was told the tests had discovered a cancerous growth in                                             The Bobby Moore Fund for
  my bowel, my world just turned upside down. But I was hopeful                                               Cancer Research UK raises
  I had caught it quickly enough so it could be dealt with.’                                                  money for our research into
  Jim Scott, 62, thought that he was in perfect health but when his                                           bowel cancer in memory of
  home screening test for bowel cancer arrived, he did it anyway –                                            footballer Bobby Moore, who
  a decision that probably saved his life. He was called in for further                                       sadly died from bowel cancer, aged just 51.
  tests that revealed a tumour in his bowel. Fortunately, his cancer was
                                                                                                              To date, the Fund has raised over £17 million
  caught early and although he had extensive surgery, he didn’t need
  any chemotherapy or radiotherapy. He is now passionate about raising                                        for dedicated bowel cancer research.
  awareness and increasing participation in bowel cancer screening.                                           For more information,
  ‘Without my early diagnosis, I wouldn’t be here to tell my story.’                                          please visit

Cancer Research UK Tel: +44 (0)20 7242 0200
Registered charity in England and Wales (1089464) and Scotland (SC041666)

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