July 1, 2013, by Charlotte Anscombe

Me, some research & a blog – The Clinical Series: Seeing the impact myself – by Zoe Baker, Graduate Trainee

Hello all – I hope you are enjoying the Clinical Series so far. This series was born when my work in the communications team generated an enthusiasm to learn more about the work of the academics who have crossed my path. This blog created the possibility for me to do a little further investigation, to delve deeper into the science and to share my findings with you. This is now the fifth blog of the series – so enjoy the read.

When deciding on which research I was going to write about in this blog series, I started off reviewing quite a few and then shortlisted them down. However, this piece of work was the first one I chose because it instantly reminded me that actually my family have benefitted directly from this research.

In 1996 a team of researchers from the School of Clinical Sciences set up a large trial based on the population of Nottingham to evaluate a bowel cancer screening test. This trial randomised over 150,000 individuals living in the Nottingham area. They randomised by household and sent half the group a Bowel Cancer Screening test, which saw a reduction in bowel cancer mortality by 16%.

When I read this, I instantly remembered a phone call I received from my mum last year when I was still studying at Nottingham. She wanted to tell me that she had just received some post from the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham. She had just been sent a bowel cancer screening kit. I remember feeling rather glad that my mum was being sent this kind of test, and a little proud it was coming from researchers at my university.

I wanted to know more about this research so contacted Professor John Scholefield from the University of Nottingham who was part of the team who introduced the new bowel cancer screening test.  Professor Scholefield is well known nationally and internationally for his research. He provided me with an article he wrote containing the results of a 20 year follow-up of the Nottingham trial which was published last year.

After the success of the Nottingham trial, the Department of Health launched a further two bowel cancer screening pilots in 1998 which produced similar data to the Nottingham trial. This led to the introduction of a National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme. By the end of 2012, screening kits had been sent to over 10 million people in the UK aged over 55.

After 20 years from the first Nottingham trial, they found a sustained reduction of mortality rates by around 16% in those who were invited for screening. This equates to over 2,500 lives being saved every year.

To learn about the research and the team involved, after seeing the direct benefits on my family, makes it all the more important and engaging. This was especially the case for me as my grandma lost her battle against bowel cancer several years ago. So I am particularly thankful for Nottingham’s contribution to the reduction of mortality rates by screening for bowel cancer.

I was therefore quite surprised to read in the 20 year follow-up that only 60% of those who were sent the screening test actually used it. So I hope from this blog I will be able to raise awareness of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme and the importance of it.

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