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World Cancer Day 2021

World Cancer Day 2021

4th February 2021

Now in its 21st year, World Cancer Day aims to inspire action to create a future without cancer

In Scotland, it is estimated that two out of five people will develop cancer in their lifetime. Around half of the people diagnosed with cancer will survive for more than 10 years – a figure that has doubled in the last 40 years.[1]

Research has been a vital part of this progress. Scotland’s highly developed research infrastructure – clinical research networks, data safe havens and accredited tissue biorepositories – supports delivery of high-quality cancer research across Scotland, with strategic investments in areas such as genomics and precision medicine accelerating the discovery of new diagnostics and treatment.

Despite the strong infrastructure and expertise supporting great strides in cancer, the emergence of COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on every area of health research.

The cancer research community had to adapt to maintain progress in clinical research, whilst protecting the safety of research participants and researchers.

Dorothy Boyle, NRS Cancer Network Manager (South East Scotland) comments: “Despite immense challenges, colleagues across the research community have worked tirelessly to keep as many trials running throughout the pandemic as possible. This has been vital to provide patients with access to life-saving, or life-extending treatments.”

Figures from NHS Research Scotland evidence a maintained commitment to keep trials open with 477 cancer studies active during the year ending September 2020, compared with 474 the previous year.[2]

Research teams across the country have had to find new ways of working during the pandemic, with virtual consultations, remote monitoring and closer collaboration with community healthcare providers becoming increasingly common. The FLAIR trial, a UK-wide haematology study, saw Aberdeen researchers liaise with local pharmacy hubs to administer oral medication, while the collection of blood samples every six months was arranged through offsite blood hubs.

Continuing to improve and accelerate treatments underpins the work of the network and multiple clinical trials have remained open throughout the pandemic including two major studies in NHS Lothian: ICON9 – investigating long-term therapy with two drugs for women whose ovarian cancer has started to grow again − and NIAGRA, which is looking at treatment for invasive bladder cancer.

Direct contribution to COVID-19 research forms part of the portfolio with the Spike-1 trial, also running in NHS Lothian, evaluating use of the cancer drug camostat to reduce the need for hospitalisation and improve symptoms in people with coronavirus.

Work also continues to attract innovative studies to Scotland. The Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre is the only UK site for the global clinical study of the ProSpace™ Balloon System designed to assess the safety and efficacy of the device in prostate cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy.

Professor David Cameron, NRS Cancer Research Champion and Professor of Oncology at the University of Edinburgh, said, “Cancer remains one of the world’s biggest health challenges and Scotland has phenomenal research expertise that has helped us make great strides. COVID-19 has undoubtedly slowed our progress.

“This past year has understandably been challenging in terms of recruiting patients into cancer clinical studies, whilst at the same time some of our scientists and research community have joined the national and global effort to combat COVID-19. It is difficult to deliver on all fronts but it shows research is fundamentally at the core of a modern health system. We must use this as an opportunity to emerge stronger, to adapt and innovate in our approach to cancer research. Seeing the resourcefulness and resilience of my research colleagues during this time has been inspiring and I firmly believe we can use this to build stronger foundations for cancer studies into the future.”

A National Cancer Trials Resilience Group, chaired by Professor Cameron has been set up in support of Scottish Government’s action plan for the recovery and redesign of cancer care and will report to the Scottish Government Coronavirus (COVID-19): National Cancer Recovery Group.

The group will provide guidance to support the recovery of the cancer clinical trials portfolio across Scotland. It will address emerging challenges; identify innovative approaches to building increased resilience; identify solutions to recruitment barriers, and facilitate shared learning across the cancer research community. This supplements work by the Chief Scientist Office and NHS Research Scotland to restore the diverse portfolio of health and social care studies that Scotland offered before the pandemic.

World Cancer Day serves as a reminder of the enduring power of cooperation and collective action. Our research community across Scotland has endured tremendous challenges over the past 12 months, but together we aim to emerge stronger, more resilient and more determined to beat cancer.

You can join the conversation this World Cancer Day at or find the campaign on:

Further information


[2] NHS Research Scotland figures for the operational years Oct 2018−Sept 2019 and Oct 2019−2020

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