Liverpool experts come together to discuss city-wide cancer issues

A first of its kind event will bring together some of the city’s top academics, clinicians, public health experts, charities and members of the public, to develop a strategy for researching cancer inequalities in Liverpool.

The Liverpool Cancer Inequalities Research Network (LCIRN) Symposium will take place today (Wednesday, 2nd November) and has been organised in partnership between North West Cancer Research, the Department of Public Health and Policy at the University of Liverpool (UoL), the NWCR-UoL Cancer Research Centre and Liverpool Health Partners.

The inaugural event will discuss the links between environmental, social, medical and behavioural contexts and inequalities in cancer incidence, diagnosis, treatment and survival.

Its aim will be to determine recommendations for priorities in research, which will form part of Liverpool’s wider cancer and health agendas, as well as identify concrete actions to reduce cancer inequalities in the region and beyond.

Significant inequalities

In 2013, 2,657 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in Liverpool, an increase of 16% in just 12 years. If this upward trend were to continue, it is estimated that 3,000 new cases of cancer could be diagnosed every year by the year 2020.

Although all cancer incidences are increasing across England, they are increasing faster in Liverpool, so that the gap between Liverpool and England as a whole has been widening over the last 10 years.

Across Liverpool-Merseyside, there are significant inequalities between cancer incidence and mortality rates, with a complex mosaic of factors impacting these differences.

One such factor is the socioeconomic structure of the city, which has led to inequalities in cancer outcomes both within the city neighbourhoods, as well as compared to the rest of the UK.

Geopolitical’ causes

Professor Terry Jones, Professor of Head and Neck Surgery at the University’s Institute of Translational Medicine and one of the founding members of LCIRN, explains why a better understanding of what he terms the ‘geopolitical’ causes of inequalities in cancer outcomes is so important.

He said: “The effect of socioeconomic factors on cancer incidence was first brought to my attention through my work with head and neck cancer patients in Liverpool and my concern that a significant number of these patients came from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“With the support of the Department of Public Health and Policy at the UoL, the need to develop a wider strategy for research that looked at these socioeconomic structures and what it is in particular that leads to so many inequalities in cancer outcomes in Liverpool was determined and LCIRN was born. Our merger with LHP’s “Cancer in the Community” programme in December last year has broadened and strengthened LCIRN.

“Since then, through a journey of collaboration and thanks to support from groups such as the NWCR-UoL Cancer Research Centre, NWCR and the University’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, LCIRN has developed to the point where we now have a strong foundation on which to base and continue our research.

“Our symposium will explore these developments in more detail. It will also be an opportunity to bring together important stakeholders and hear their views on tackling inequalities in cancer outcomes in the region. Our ultimate aim is to answer why Liverpool experiences such inequalities and use this to inform regional cancer strategies that will tackle these inequalities – reducing cancer incidence and improving cancer outcomes for patients in the city.”

Identifying key priorities

The LCIRN Symposium will feature keynote talks from some of the city’s top cancer and public health names.

These include Professor Chris Holcombe, cancer lead at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, Professor Dame Margaret Whitehead, renowned for her work on the socioeconomic causes of health inequalities, and Professor Sally Sheard, a medical historian, from the University.

It will be chaired by Dr Sue Povall, network co-ordinator for LCIRN, Professor Sarah Coupland, Director of the NWCR-UoL Cancer Research Centre, and Professor Philip Johnson, cancer lead for Liverpool Health Partners.

A series of discussion sessions will provide a forum to identify key priorities for research into the socioeconomic conditions causing inequalities in cancer incidence, treatment, mortality and survival.

These will inform LCIRN’s research strategy over the next 12 months.  It is anticipated that research outcomes will contribute to regional strategy to help address the city’s rising cancer rates.


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