Our research in Belfast
In Northern Ireland
- Around 10,000 people are diagnosed with cancer each year.
- We spent over £1m on life-saving research in 2022/23.
- Cancer deaths have fallen by around 5% in the last 10 years.
- Almost 55% of cancers with a known stage are diagnosed early.
We receive no government funding for our research. Our life-saving work relies on the money you give us.
Last year, we spent over £2m on our research in Belfast, where our researchers have particular expertise in bowel and oesophageal cancer and precision (personalised) medicine. Our research in these areas has already helped transform the lives of many people living with cancer. We also have a Senior Research Nurse in Belfast, who facilitates the delivery of high-quality clinical trials and studies, getting new treatments into the clinic sooner.
Thanks to research, we’ve made great progress and today 1 in 2 people will survive their cancer for 10 years or more. And our ambitious goal is to see 3 in 4 surviving by 2034. Our research in Northern Ireland and across the UK will help bring forward a day when all cancers are cured.
What we're doing now
Finding new ways to tackle bowel cancer
Dr Emma Kerr is studying how the disease hijacks normal processes the body’s cells use to make energy and grow, which can lead to the cancer becoming resistant to chemotherapy.
Predicting which pre-cancerous conditions will become cancer
Professor Helen Coleman is conducting a population-based study to try and identify biomarkers which could help predict which patients with Barrett’s Oesophagus (a condition where the cells lining the oesophagus look abnormal) will go on to develop oesophageal cancer.
Can exercise prevent bowel cancer returning?
Dr Vicky Coyle is leading the CHALLENGE trial in the UK, to see whether physical activity can help reduce the risk of bowel cancer coming back.
Investigating prescription medications and cancer risk
Professor Chris Cardwell is looking at whether routine prescription medications can alter cancer risk. He’s using anonymised GP records to look at exposure to 154 medications in people who have developed cancer, compared to those who have not.
Belfast's Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre
Belfast is home to an Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC), which brings together lab scientists and cancer doctors from local universities and NHS trusts to speed up the flow of ideas and new treatments from the lab to the clinic. Our ECMC in Belfast is jointly supported by Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health Research in Northern Ireland.
How we've made a difference so far
By sharing their expertise, scientists, doctors and nurses are improving the care of patients across Northern Ireland and beyond. For example, in Northern Ireland:
- We have supported and continue to help fund the new Northern Ireland Biobank which collects and stores samples from many patients with different types of cancer. This biobank provides a valuable resource for scientists in Belfast and across the UK.
- We’ve helped to fund the Molecular Pathology Laboratory which is helping to diagnose cancers more accurately and support researchers developing precision (personalised) therapies.
- Our Belfast scientists identified an important molecule known as c-FLIP, which stops bowel cancer cells responding to chemotherapy. With over 1,200 people diagnosed with bowel cancer in Northern Ireland every year, this discovery could have a huge impact on improving treatment for people with the disease.