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Major cancer research boost from Friends of ANCHOR

Research into a form of cancer which is more prevalent in the North-east of Scotland than anywhere else in Britain has had a major funding boost.

Friends of ANCHOR announced today that the University of Aberdeen has been awarded £156,000 to fund research into bowel cancer.

The money will allow Dr Mairi McLean - an award winning Clinical Lecturer and Honorary Specialist Registrar in Gastroenterology - to spend three years researching colorectal cancer (CRC).

The disease is the second biggest cancer killer of men and the third largest cancer killer of women - around 17,000 people die of the disease in the UK each year. The highest UK incidence of CRC in both men and women is in the North-east.

Dr McLean said: "It's tremendous news that Friends of ANCHOR are allowing us to further the research being conducted in Aberdeen into colorectal cancer. Despite the prevalence of the disease - both here and elsewhere - our understanding of why it develops continues to be poor. I plan to use the extremely generous donation of £156,000 to try to gain a better understanding of this process."

The research which will be conducted by Dr McLean for her PhD will examine what factors cause normal cells in the colon to develop into a polyp – a growth which can be precancerous - and then turn cancerous.

Large colonic polyps, which have the highest risk of turning cancerous, often appear inflamed compared to the surrounding normal bowel. Lab studies have shown that markers of cell inflammation are increased and genes related to inflammation are switched on in polyp tissue compared to normal tissue.

Dr McLean, who lives in Aberdeenshire, added: "We plan to study this further to clarify the role of inflammation in relation to the development of colon cancer. We propose that this in fact is the initiating factor which drives the genetic change which leads to the development of cancer of the bowel."

Professor Emad El-Omar, Professor of Gastroenterology at the University, said: "This area of research is, as far as we are aware, still to be explored. Therefore we are absolutely delighted that Friends of ANCHOR have given us this money to allow one of our brightest graduates to carry out these studies.

"The findings from Mairi’s research could potentially have a major impact on our understanding of why colorectal cancer develops. Consequently this may pave the way for new approaches in the treatment and prevention of this common disease."

Jim Milne is the Chairman of Friends of ANCHOR. He said: "We are delighted that people living in our local community will benefit from the expertise Mairi will bring to this project.

“Funding for research fellowships is few and far between. This funding is not available from the NHS and Mairi had already submitted an application to a leading cancer research charity, which offers only one fellowship throughout the UK and unfortunately, Mairi’s application was unsuccessful. Quite simply, if Friends of ANCHOR did not fund this project, it wouldn’t happen.

“Fully committed to funding research, we have funded another research fellow at the University since 1998, at a cost of £50,000 per annum. We believe this project will be of great benefit to the local community and, therefore, decided to extend our research funding.

"Friends of ANCHOR relies on the generosity of the people of the North-east. Members of the public can rest assured that every penny donated to the Friends of ANCHOR research fund will be used to further improve the understanding of this disease and the treatments offered. All our administration costs are met by sponsoring companies. Money donated does not sit in a large pot to be distributed across the length and breadth of the country, but is used here, for the benefit of local patients.”

For her research Dr McLean will be able to tap into a major Scottish Executive funded pilot screening programme, which is currently taking place in the North-east of Scotland. Aberdeen is one of three Scottish centres which invite people aged between 50 and 70 to be screened for colon cancer.
· Researchers do not know for sure why the North-east has such high rates of the disease. They suggest, like many other diseases, it may be due to a combination of factors, which include genetics, diet and environmental exposure.

If you would like to support Friends of ANCHOR or require further information, Fiona Poustie, fundraising manager, can be contacted on 07831 882028 or emailed at

PHOTOCALL: Dr Mairi McLean, Professor Emad El-Omar and Fiona Poustie will be available for photographs/interviews today, Friday at 11am at the Institute of Medical Sciences, Foresterhill, Ashgrove Road West. Contact Jennifer Phillips to arrange: tel: (01224) 273174.

FRIENDS OF ANCHOR: The Friends of ANCHOR (FoA) is a Registered Charity formed to raise funds on behalf of the ANCHOR unit. The monies raised are used to purchase extra equipment utilising advanced technology to further improve the diagnosis, care and patients suffering from all forms of cancer including leukemia and benign blood disorders such as haemophilia.

FoA are committed to funding research into the causes of cancer and improving treatment of patients with these diseases. The ANCHOR research fellowship has been funded since 1998 and this financial support is to further increase with the funding of Dr Mahri McLean’s fellowship.

Every penny donated goes directly to the charity. All administration costs are met by sponsoring companies.

The ANCHOR Unit at ARI is a fully funded NHS cancer care unit with accommodation of the highest standard.

The “Friends of ANCHOR” was formed in 1997 to raise money to purchase equipment utilising advanced technology to further improve diagnosis and treatment of cancer and related diseases as well as providing humanitarian equipment for the unit. The ANCHOR support area extends throughout North-east Scotland and includes Orkney and Shetland.


Notes to Editors

Issued by the Communications Team, Office of External Affairs, University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen. Tel: (01224) 272014.

Issued on: Friday 11th of February 2005

Ref: 1586anchor
Contact: Jennifer Phillips

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