A £1 million project which aims to reverse the North East’s high rate of bowel cancer is under way.
The programme is being funded by the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and targets the region’s high incidence and low survival rates of the cancer, also known as colorectal cancer.
The project, known as COLO-SPEED, will see 18 regional NHS endoscopy units recruite up to 5,000 patients a year to speed up research into the disease.
Units in Sunderland, South Tyneside, Hartlepool, North Tees, Gateshead, North Tyneside and Cramlington have signed up to the scheme.
Professor Colin Rees, Professor of Gastroenterology at Newcastle University and South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, is an expert in endoscopy.
Prof Rees said: “To use a football analogy, if you had to build the stadium and source the players and supporters every time you played a match, it would be a very slow process.
“Thanks to this funding from the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, COLO-SPEED will ensure everything we need is already in place when we have to find the answer to a question through targeted research.”
In the UK, 40,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year and rates are very high in the North East.
The region also has one of the lowest survival rates across both genders among the lowest in the country.
Professor Rees added: “Most bowel cancer cases and deaths are preventable through a combination of lifestyle changes, finding and removing growths within the bowel that may become cancerous, or by taking drugs like aspirin to help prevent growths forming.
“We know we can make a real difference through targeted research and COLO-SPEED is something we believe will be a world-leading model for prevention and early diagnosis research.
“We’re very grateful to everyone who has donated to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation to help make it a reality.
Sir Bobby’s wife Lady Elsie said: “Bob’s aim when he began our Foundation was to fund research that he could see would make a difference, not just here in the North East, but around the world.
“As ever, it will need to be a great team effort to succeed and, through Professor Rees, we know there’s a wonderful enthusiasm from across the whole region to get involved in this project.”
Sir Bobby Robson launched his Foundation in 2008 to help find more effective ways to detect and treat cancer.