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Belfast scientist receives £750,000 grant to research the role of exercise in decreasing the risk of bowel cancer returning

Dr Vicky Coyle from Queen's University has been awarded a £750,000 grant to fund a clinical trial that could help reduce the risk of bowel cancer returning after treatment
Gareth McKeown

A Belfast scientist has been awarded a £750,000 grant to fund groundbreaking research into bowel cancer.

Dr Vicky Coyle from Queen's University has been awarded the money from the Stand Up to Cancer charity to bring a new clinical trial to the UK that could help patients reduce the risk of their disease coming back after treatment.

Dr Coyle will determine whether taking part in a supervised physical activity programme could help decrease the risk of the cancer returning.

Each year around 1,200 people in Northern Ireland are diagnosed with bowel cancer.

There is some evidence that patients who are physically active have a greater chance of surviving bowel cancer, a lower chance of their disease coming back after treatment and a better quality of life afterwards, but no study has ever been big enough to prove this conclusively.

Dr Coyle and her team will recruit patients from hospitals around the UK, including the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre in Belfast, who have just finished their bowel cancer treatment and are currently not physically active.

Patients will take part in a three-year programme of physical activity which could be anything from purposeful walking to running or cycling.

“Our hope is that by defining an amount of physical activity that could help prevent bowel cancer returning and showing that patients can successfully increase their activity levels by taking part in a structured exercise programme, we can change treatment pathways and improve outcomes for our patients with bowel cancer," Dr Coyle said

The trial is part of a larger international study currently underway in Canada, Australia, France, Israel, South Korea and the US and hopes to enlist almost 1,000 patients worldwide.

Supported by a host of celebrities including Davina McCall and Alan Carr, Stand Up To Cancer, a joint venture between Channel 4 and Cancer Research UK, will culminate on Friday October 21 with a night of live TV on Channel 4.

Cancer Research UK is calling on everyone in Northern Ireland to take a stand and do something to help raise money at work, school or at home – from fancy dress days and sponsored silences to bake sales and open mic nights.

Jean Walsh, Cancer Research UK’s spokeswoman in Northern Ireland, said that one in two born in the UK after 1960 will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives and urged people to get behind the cause.

“The time to act is now. We’re on the brink of a revolution in cancer research. Thanks to new treatments, screening and earlier diagnosis, more people are surviving the disease than ever before," she said.

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