The pharmaceutical industry in the UK contributes £8.4 billion to the UK’s GDP, and invests almost £4 billion in research and development per year. With more than £6 billion of that being generated by GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, £1.3 million investment in the Belfast Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre is quite substantial.
What Does the Belfast Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre do?
The Belfast ECMC has been funded to work with experimental cancer medicine since 2007. This new funding has been contributed jointly by Cancer Research UK and the Research and Development Division of the Public Health Agency, and the Belfast ECMC is one of only 18 locations in the UK to receive this funding.
The Belfast ECMC works with Queen’s University Belfast’s Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology to develop novel cancer diagnostic and treatment techniques.
One area of focus for the Belfast ECMC is the development and discovery of novel biomarkers, which are molecules secreted either by cancer cells, or by the body as a reaction to the presence of cancer cells, which can then be detected to easily diagnose early-stage cancer.
The Belfast ECMC also works on developing new or improved methods of radiation therapy, as well as novel intervention methods to improve patient outcomes.
How Does Cancer Medicine Research Work?
Research typically has two major stages: lab work, and clinical trials. All developments will start as theories to be tested in a lab setting, which will, hopefully, lead to biomarker or medicine developments promising enough to be tested in a ‘real world’ setting.
Once a technique has been developed, clinical trials will begin, starting with small cohorts and then working toward larger trials to determine efficacy. This could be through paid clinical trials, such as those run through http://www.trials4us.co.uk/, or they could be doctor-referred trials for rarer conditions.
Cancer is a major killer in the UK, with almost 335,000 new cases diagnosed in 2014, and almost 164,000 fatalities from cancer in the same year, making all cancers the second most common cause of death overall in the UK. That being said, due to the work of institutions like the Belfast ECMC, 5-year survival rates have increased from 30% in the 1970s to well over 50% today.