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2023 in Review: 12 Milestone Moments

As the year draws to a close, we reflect upon Yorkshire Cancer Research’s work in 2023 to help ensure more people in Yorkshire live longer healthier lives, free of cancer.

In Yorkshire, every 17 minutes someone is told they have cancer. Yorkshire Cancer Research’s aim is for more people to survive cancer each year.

Thanks to supporters, the charity is currently funding £61m of world-leading cancer research involving 171,000 people and 860 cancer experts. These life-giving medical breakthroughs are helping more people survive cancer – in Yorkshire, and beyond.

1. Yorkshire Cancer Research is named the biggest funder of cancer research study places in the region

During 2022/23, Yorkshire Cancer Research funded 40% of all cancer research study places in the region – twice as many as the next biggest funder.

Thanks to people supporting the work of Yorkshire Cancer Research, the charity’s funding means Yorkshire has one of the best performing Clinical Research Networks in England when it comes to the number of people taking part in cancer studies.

The charity’s funding also helps attract talented cancer researchers and experts to the region, giving people with cancer in Yorkshire greater access to new treatments.

Female practioner wearing Yorkshire Cancer Research polo shirt with arms crossed Image of a scan representing cancer research

2. Research reveals opportunities to increase early diagnosis in rural Yorkshire

Supporters’ donations are helping Yorkshire Cancer Research find cancer sooner - when it’s often easier to treat.

Half of all bowel cancers diagnosed in Yorkshire are found at a late stage. This can lead to lower survival rates.

At the beginning of 2023, research revealed some key reasons for late diagnosis within rural communities in North Yorkshire. Travel times, high levels of self-employment and being employed in work with seasonal pressures all contributed to delays in people seeking medical help. Poor relationships with GPs and a desire to manage health independently also emerged as key themes.

These research findings are now being used to inform strategies to support rural patients and to encourage them to visit their GP with symptoms earlier.

Doctor and clinician in consulting room Landscape view of Hebden Bridge, a village in Yorkshire

3. Women in Hull are offered free transport to breast screening

Yorkshire Cancer Research funded a new clinical trial to find out if providing free door-to-door transport to breast screening appointments can increase the number of women taking part.

Breast screening can find cancer at an early stage when there are usually more treatment options available. But thousands of women don’t take part due to lack of transport, time constraints and difficulty getting to appointments.

If this trial is successful, the findings will be used to inform further trials and NHS services to help woman attend their breast screening appointments.

A breast screening image

4. Smoking-related cancers tackled through a stop smoking trial

Yorkshire has some of the highest smoking rates in England and saving lives by helping people quit is a key focus for the charity.

In 2023 the charity continued to tackle smoking-related cancers by improving access to vape products. Vaping is significantly less harmful than smoking. When vapes are used alongside specialist stop smoking support, people are three times more likely to quit smoking.

We’re working with local authorities and the NHS to provide free vape kits to people who smoke, including funding a programme launched in Calderdale early in 2023.

According to Lindsey Noel, Senior Stop Smoking Advisor, “Some smokers need multiple attempts to quit for good. For these people, we’re having success with the vapes where other therapies have not worked in the past, so it’s fantastic. We can offer more people a smoke-free future.”

Young male using a stop-smoking aid Man in blue shirt snaps a cigarette in half

5. The charity helps ‘pave the way’ for a national lung screening programme.

Lung cancer is the biggest cause of cancer-related death in Yorkshire, with those living in deprived communities most at risk.

Since November 2018, Yorkshire Cancer Research has been funding a pioneering lung screening programme for people living in Leeds. More than 8,000 people have been checked for early signs of lung cancer, with 350 cancers being diagnosed sooner than they would otherwise.

The trial also demonstrated how stop smoking support can be offered alongside lung health checks and, partly due to the findings, stop smoking services will now be integrated into the national rollout of lung cancer screening.

A patient entering a scanning machine

6. Lynparza is offered by the NHS to people with inherited breast cancer

2023 marked a significant development for people with inherited breast cancer when a drug called Lynparza was officially approved as a treatment by the NHS.

Lynparza was developed as a cancer treatment following research funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research 20 years ago. In 2005, it was discovered by researchers at the University of Sheffield that drugs known as PARP inhibitors could be used to treat both ovarian and breast cancer patients with BRCA gene mutations.

In 2014, the drug was approved to help some women with ovarian cancer. It was then approved as a treatment for some prostate and pancreatic cancers, but it wasn’t until 2023 that it was approved for people with high risk, early-stage breast cancer.

The treatment is expected to save and extend the lives of up to 370 patients in Yorkshire alone.

Female patient looking towards a doctor who has their back to camera Female torso, hands holding a pill bottle

7. International support for the charity’s pioneering new exercise programme

In the summer, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), an international grant-making foundation, committed £835,000 to support the charity’s innovative new programme for people with cancer.

Evidence shows that exercise before, during and after treatment can help improve the likelihood of survival and reduce the risk of cancer coming back. Exercise can also help people prepare for cancer treatment and make a quicker recovery, while relieving side effects from treatment.

First introduced for patients in Sheffield in 2022, the fitness, nutrition and wellbeing programme (known as Active Together) was designed by Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre and funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research.

Active Together is now also provided at the charity’s new fitness and wellbeing centre at Hornbeam Park in Harrogate, as well as through community leisure centres in West Yorkshire. Services in other locations across the region are also being planned by the charity.

A man on a treadmill supported by a member of staff

8. Thousands to receive at-home tests to help prevent cervical cancer

2023 marked the beginning of a new study that will see thousands of women in Hull receive at-home urine tests in the post.

The test looks for a virus called ‘human papillomavirus’ (HPV), which causes almost all cases of cervical cancer. HPV does not cause any symptoms, so women may not know they have it. By finding those with HPV, people at high risk of cervical cancer can be checked more regularly so that pre-cancerous cell changes are found as early as possible.

Those found to have HPV can have further tests and, where necessary, receive treatment to prevent cancer developing. The study will explore whether women are more likely to take part in screening when provided with a simple test that can be done in the privacy of their own home.

Female doctor sitting at a desk talking to cancer patient

9. Survey reveals lack of exercise support among people with cancer

In October, a new survey commissioned by the charity found that just one in 20 people living with cancer in Yorkshire have taken part in a specialised exercise programme.

In the survey of 500 people with cancer in Yorkshire, three quarters said their healthcare team did not discuss exercise with them following their diagnosis.

The charity launched a short film, ‘Exercise and Cancer’, featuring people with cancer and experts to highlight the impact of exercise and present the evidence behind its link to cancer survival. It is hoped that by raising awareness of this, everyone with cancer will one day be able to access fitness, nutrition and wellbeing support.

10. Ambitious plans to tackle cancer in Yorkshire are taken to Westminster

MPs and supporters came together at the Palace of Westminster in November to hear the charity’s ambitious plans to help prevent, diagnose and treat cancer across Yorkshire.

Those who attended heard about the challenges faced by the region, where people are more likely to have their lives cut short by cancer, as well as the charity’s aims to fund innovative research, improve early diagnosis and bring more ground-breaking clinical trials to Yorkshire.

World-leading academics and clinicians whose work is funded by the charity also attended to discuss the impact their research and studies are having in Yorkshire and beyond.

Houses of Parliament from Westminster Bridge

11. Sir Michael Parkinson CBE is recognised for his work to help people in Yorkshire

It was with great sadness that we learned about the death of the charity’s patron, Sir Michael Parkinson CBE.

Barnsley-born Sir Michael, who died on 16th August, became patron of the charity in March 2016 following his experience with prostate cancer.

After being treated successfully, Sir Michael became passionate about supporting the charity’s aim to address inequalities in cancer diagnosis and treatment in Yorkshire.

Sir Michael was a staunch supporter of equality and equity for people with cancer, no matter who they are or where they live. By speaking out about his own personal experience, he played an important role in both raising awareness of cancer and raising funds for vital research into the disease.

Sir Michael Parkinson CBE speaking at Yorkshire Cancer Research event Sir Michael Parkinson with wife Mary

12. Sir Alan Langlands appointed Chair of the charity’s Board of Trustees

2023 saw the appointment of Sir Alan Langlands as the charity’s new Chair of Trustees.

With a 50-year career in research-intensive universities, the NHS and health charities, Sir Alan has since played a key role in helping the charity reduce cancer inequalities and keep a spotlight on the importance of effective prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care.

At the time of his appointment, the former Chief Executive of the NHS in England said: “I am looking forward to working with the researchers and clinicians who undertake vital research and provide pioneering services for the people of Yorkshire, and to supporting the tremendous work of Yorkshire Cancer Research’s selfless community of volunteers and donors who make this possible.”

Thank you.

2024 promises to be another important year for Yorkshire Cancer Research and its mission to fund pioneering research to save lives in Yorkshire, and beyond.

With your support we will continue to work with researchers, cancer experts and those affected by cancer so we can continue to give Yorkshire more life to live.