Power of sport helps kick-off pioneering cancer research in Gloucestershire

Dr Alex Dudgeon, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Cutting edge research which could help diagnose cancer faster has been kick-started in Gloucestershire.

A pioneering new study is underway at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital which uses fibre optic light to detect thyroid cancer, potentially giving an instant diagnosis for patients.

The Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust research team (Biophotonics Research Unit) has previously demonstrated it is possible to tell the difference between healthy and cancerous tissue by measuring the light emitted when a low power laser is shone upon the tissue.

This new study will develop the diagnostic technique further and has the potential to benefit Gloucestershire patients with suspected thyroid cancer, who are often aged in their 30’s or 40’s. It is also hoped this technique could then be used to help assist in the diagnosis of breast and other cancers in the future.

It was made possible thanks to £12,000 given to FOCUS, the charitable fund for the Gloucestershire Oncology Centre.

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The research using the Raman Spectroscopy technique is being run jointly between Gloucestershire Hospitals’ Oncology and Biophotonics team. Biophotonics is concerned with the use of light to study biological tissues, cells and molecules.

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow Dr Alex Dudgeon, who has been working alongside head and neck Surgeon Mr Charlie Hall to prepare for start of the trial, said: “With early detection a key factor in the successful treatment of cancer, this technique has real potential to improve the speed of diagnosis and treatment for future cancer patients.

“It has the potential to bring huge advantages over traditional methods as there is an instant diagnosis, it potentially eliminates the need for unnecessary diagnostic surgery and, as a result, there will be a much-improved experience and earlier diagnosis for patients”.

It has been predicted one in two of us will experience cancer in our lifetime, but the potential to treat patients successfully is improving year on year thanks to advances in treatment and a focus on early diagnosis. The Gloucestershire Hospitals’ research teams have a strong track record of identifying new techniques which can benefit cancer patients and they are currently running more than 100 clinical research trials.

Dr Dudgeon added: “We are so grateful for all the donations and the fundraising as this enables the development of new techniques with potential to benefit patients in Gloucestershire in the future. We look forward to sharing the results of the trial with our supporters in the autumn 2019.”

Gloucestershire County Cricket Club raised £6,000 towards the study at the Cheltenham Cricket Festival and the other £6,000 came from Growers United FC.

Growers United uses sport to bring together people in different communities working in food and agriculture in the Vale of Evesham. Every year they raise tens of thousands of pounds for charity.

Bal Padda from GUFC said: “We are a collective of UK growers who organise sporting events to unite and support communities and, above all, give back by raising funds for local and national charities. We are only too pleased to be able to help this amazing charity and that our donation is going to fund this pioneering cancer research.”

For the past three years, Gloucestershire County Cricket Club has been supporting the FOCUS fund which is part of the Cheltenham and Gloucester Hospitals Charity. Together, they launched the Hit Cancer for Six partnership which has helped raise funds for new treatment suites and diagnostic equipment for prostate cancer.

Richard Hastilow-Smith, Head of Fundraising “It is wonderful that we can now go ahead with this innovative research, we’re very grateful to Gloucestershire County Cricket Club for their incredible support and to all those at the Festival who helped us to Hit Cancer for Six. We also cannot thank Growers United FC enough for their generous donation to the project.”