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Ground-breaking cancer research which could help benefit patients worldwide is taking place in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 15:55 15 November 2017 | UPDATED: 15:55 15 November 2017

The cancer research laboratory at the Biomedical Research Centre, funded by the Big C. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The cancer research laboratory at the Biomedical Research Centre, funded by the Big C. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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It is a disease which affects around 14.1m people worldwide every year and it touches every corner of the globe.

PhD student Aleks Gontarczyk, and UEA lecturer Dr Stephen Robinson, left, at work at the cancer research laboratory at the Biomedical Research Centre, funded by the Big C. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPhD student Aleks Gontarczyk, and UEA lecturer Dr Stephen Robinson, left, at work at the cancer research laboratory at the Biomedical Research Centre, funded by the Big C. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

But right here in Norfolk, important strides are being made to understand cancer - and possible ways of combatting the illness.

Earlier this month, French and American researchers revealed how the bacteria living in the digestive system seemed to influence whether tumours shrink during cancer therapy.

But studies into this area are also being carried out closer to home, at the biomedical research centre at the University of East Anglia (UEA). And much of the research is thanks to generous donations from Norfolk residents.

Professor Dylan Edwards, UEA pro-vice chancellor for the faculty of medicine and health sciences, said: “There are many aspects to the research we’ve been doing here, we’re trying to understand some of the contributions to cancer growth and spread throughout the body.

Media (cell food) is pipetted into a cell culture flask at the cancer research laboratory at the Biomedical Research Centre, funded by the Big C. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYMedia (cell food) is pipetted into a cell culture flask at the cancer research laboratory at the Biomedical Research Centre, funded by the Big C. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“And particularly now - and an increasingly important area - is the way the immune system works to control cancer and the impact of our gut microbes on what is happening to prevent the spread of cancer.”

Research has recently found in patients where the disease has spread, they may respond to better to treatment if they have a wide diversity of gut microbes. This area can be examined at the UEA thanks to funding from Norfolk’s largest cancer charity the Big C. And their donations come directly from the public.

Professor Edwards said: “It’s a fantastic resource, and Big C have contributed an enormous amount over the years towards cancer research in Norwich and Norfolk and for the future this growth through the Quadram Institute, setting up the new institute there to particularly probe the impact of gut microbes, food and nutrition, in promoting health and preventing cancer from developing in the first place, this is an important area.”

The £81m Quadram Institute - under construction at the Norwich Research Park - will bring together research teams from the Institute of Food Research, UEA and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH). When complete it will be home to 300 researchers and 100 clinicians as well as housing 40,000 endoscopy tests. Last year, Big C donated £400,000 to the project.

Prof Dylan Edwards. Picture: Denise BradleyProf Dylan Edwards. Picture: Denise Bradley

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