Liverpool marks 20 years of World Cancer Day

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Professor Sarah Coupland is Director of the North West Cancer Research Centre.

“Today is World Cancer Day (WCD): it is the 20th anniversary of WCD, which aims to save millions of preventable deaths each year by raising awareness and education about cancer, and pressing governments and individuals across the world to take action against the disease.

In the UK 1 in 2 people can expect to receive a diagnosis of cancer at some point during the course of their lives. Unfortunately, in the Liverpool / Merseyside region, our cancer incidence and mortality rates are higher than the national average. Cancer is therefore a major health challenge for the people of the city and all those working in health care.

The North West Cancer Research Centre @University of Liverpool, established in April 2014, brings together researchers who are working collaboratively, with other researchers locally and across the globe, to help reduce the impact of cancers in Merseyside and improve survival. The Centre is also a training centre – a “Youth Academy” – providing PhD studentships, pump-primer starter grants, travel awards and educational symposia for our next generation of basic and translational cancer researchers.

We are extremely proud of our research, but just as much of the work we do in the community. Our outreach programme aims to engage local individuals, community groups and stakeholder organisations in a varied and innovative programme of educational and social events. These include lab tours, all of which are designed to help local people understand more about cancer and what they can do to reduce their own risk and the impact of cancer in their community.

For example, one of our most successful events in 2019 was the Henrietta Lacks Exhibition at the Liverpool Tate Gallery, which addressed the very moving story behind HeLa cells, how they revolutionised science, and also the importance of cervical screening and HPV vaccination. It also enabled our scientists to show off their artistic skills and meet Liverpool’s Lord Mayor, Anna Rothery, as well as members of the Lacks family, who’d travelled from Baltimore to Liverpool specifically for this Installation. In October 2020, it will be 100 years since the birth of Henrietta Lacks.

Emma Squibb and Prof. Sarah Coupland, former Centre Director, are organising an event on WCD 2020 to bring together scientists, researchers, health and social care professionals, patients, survivors and members of the public, to celebrate survivorship, and the hard-won advances made in cancer diagnosis and treatment.

This year’s World Cancer Day is continuing with its #iamandiwill pledge initiative, and our event will be one of many across the world on 4th February where participants will be asked to make their own personal pledge, to help reduce the impact of cancer for themselves and for the people they love.”