Laid With Love eggs donate 2p per dozen eggs sold to cancer research. In recent years we have chosen Cancer Research UK to receive donations from the sale of eggs in Booths and Tesco stores.
Our latest cheque donation was for £40,000 – a donation from eggs sold in Tesco stores. We chose CRUK’s Business Beats Cancer – Newcastle arm to receive the donation because it supports researchers in Newcastle who are working on new life-saving discoveries.
As a special thank you, we were invited to a visit organised by CRUK which gave us a rare opportunity to meet some of the CRUK funded, world-class scientists and researchers as well as being taken on a tour of the Cancer Research ULK Newcastle Drug Discovery Unit.
Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading charity for cancer research and has just celebrated its 120th anniversary. On our visit, we discovered the meaning behind what they say:
“Together we are beating cancer”
The visit really enforced this sense of community coming together to beat cancer – both in terms of scientists and researchers, and also from the massive community support from fundraisers – local, community groups and businesses like ours. Here’s what we learned:
In their last financial year, CRUK raised £719M:
- £490M coming from fundraising.
- Fundraising increased by £64M compared to previous years.
- At least 82p in every £ goes towards research.
What we heard from the scientists
- In the 1970’s survival rate of patients was 25%
- The survival rate currently stands at 50%
- By 2034 the expectation is it will increase to 75%
- Sadly, 1 in 5 research projects cannot go ahead because of lack of funding.
Ruth Plummer is Professor of Experimental Cancer Medicine, at Newcastle University, and an honorary consultant medical oncologist at Newcastle Hospitals. She leads the Newcastle Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre and CRUK Newcastle Cancer Centre.
Speaker: Professor Steve Clifford, Director, Newcastle University Centre for Cancer
For over 40 years cancer research in Newcastle has been producing world-leading research. The Newcastle ‘Centre for Cancer’ was set up in 1982 and costs £10M per annum to run. It is funded by CRUK alongside other funding bodies. The centre brings all members (currently 5-600) together, feeding local research into national research, and creating a world-leading research environment.
Building the Newcastle Cancer community enables close working, from laboratory to clinic – for example, the Wolfson Childhood Cancer Research Labs work closely with the Great North Children’s Hospital.
A great deal of the research work is focused on childhood cancers – and with some remarkable success.
- In the 1970’s only 33% of children survived
- In 2023 75 – 80% of children now survive.
- Paediatric Brain Cancer – survival rate 76%
Looking for treatments for childhood cancer is more complex because young bodies are still growing. It is important to find ways to treat neonatal and infant patients in a manner that minimises the side effects as much as possible. The team also looks at the formulation of medicines e.g. IV, liquid, tablet. Getting the right balance is crucial.
Speaker Professor Gareth Veal, Professor of Cancer Pharmacology
The importance of looking at pharmacology to create the best results for your patients was highlighted. This team looks at ways of minimising side effects and developing multiple formulations e.g. tablet, liquid – especially in young children where intravenous may be more effective than tablets. It is called…
A therapeutic window – the Goldilocks theory
It was explained that there is a therapeutic window for drugs to work best with the least harmful side effects. Their ‘Goldilocks theory’ aims to work out where the sweet spot is for administering drugs of the right strength and frequency. Not too little, not too much, just the right balance – and it is tricky because everyone responds differently to drugs.
We were pleased to see just how much impact the funding from CRUK has on research and developing clinical trials.
Professor Steve Wedge – Research Bioscientist, Drug Discovery Unit
Newcastle is one of just 6 Discovery Centres in the UK, and they all talk and collaborate.
Discovering and testing new drugs needs a large team, and Newcastle does have successes like Rucaparib – a new drug that is a targeted PARP inhibitor.
PARP is a protein that helps damaged cells to repair themselves. Rucaparib stops PARP working. Some cancer cells rely on PARP to keep their DNA healthy, so, when Rucaparib stops PARP from repairing DNA damage, the cancer cells die.
Scientists at Newcastle University initiated the early stages, and several collaborations with scientists in academia and the pharmaceutical industry enabled its final approval.
CRUK funded the team in the lab which included Bio Scientists, Structural Biologists and Medicinal Chemists (who create the chemical compounds).
Summing up Professor Wedge said Cancer is hundreds of diseases. We collaborate with other colleagues across other countries to get the volumes of samples and data we need, and it also stops us from barking up a tree that has been looked at before.
It was fascinating to listen to the researchers explain what they do, investigating cells and samples to evaluate the effect of drugs.
We also talked to the team involved in flow cytometry a laser-based technique used to detect and analyse the chemical and physical characteristics of cells. Their equipment can analyse a million cells in a matter of minutes.
Our final lab visit was to the Biobank where they store up to 200,000 samples. Currently, over 20,000 patient samples are stored in the Newcastle Lab. Samples can be frozen down to -80 or -150C with info carefully logged and highlighting the donor’s approval for use.
Expert researchers decide which samples can be allocated for study approval – of which there is high demand. 60% of the samples remain in the UK, with some going overseas as far as Australia.
Our final introduction was with Dr Susannah Harnor, Senior Research Associate, Drug Discovery Unit. She has been working here for 13 years and is researching compounds.
Suzane explained that it takes 12 – 15 years and billions of pounds to bring a new drug to market. It struck us that these dedicated researchers may be working for many years and not see the fruition of their labours.
What came across strongly on our visit was the PASSION, INTEGRITY, CONSISTENCY, PATIENCE, AND RESPECT that all those involved have for cancer research.
It also made us incredibly pleased to have chosen Cancer Research UK to receive the majority of the money raised so far by our Laid With Love eggs.