From back bench to lab bench in the fight against cancer

A local MP has swapped legislation for a lab coat, to find out more about the cancer research being carried out in the city of Liverpool region.

Andrew Miller, MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, was invited to the North West Cancer Research (NWCR) Centre on London Road this week by Centre Director, Professor Sarah Coupland. Professor Coupland recently spent a week in Westminster to find out more about how science policy is formed.

The visit was part of a unique ‘pairing scheme’ run by The Royal Society – the UK’s national academy of science – which aims to build bridges between parliamentarians and some of the best scientists in the UK. It is an opportunity for parliamentarians and civil servants to become better informed about science issues and for scientists to understand how they can influence science policy.

During the visit Mr Miller met some of the researchers based at the NWCR Centre and on the University campus to discuss how their work fits in with wider cancer strategies in the region. He also made a presentation to the researchers about how they as scientists can help to influence government policy.

Mr Miller said:

“I was one of the founders of the scheme about 12 years ago and it was designed to build a bridge between policy makers and scientists. It doesn’t matter what an MP did before being elected; keeping up with the rapidly changing world is challenging, no more so than in areas of scientific research.

“Hopefully at the end of the process Professor Coupland and I will have a better idea of how our respective worlds work, and more importantly for me improve my ability to advocate the case for science investment in important areas like cancer research.”

Cancer is the biggest killer in Liverpool. In 2011, about 1300 people died from cancer and cancer- related illnesses. The number of new cancer cases in Liverpool is higher than the rest of England. You are over 20% more likely to be diagnosed with cancer in this area of the UK than anywhere else, and this gap is unfortunately widening.

Despite these figures, Liverpool is leading the way when it comes to cancer research and a wide range of basic and clinical research projects are currently underway at the NWCR Centre. Prof. Coupland hopes to be able to build upon this world-class research and address the magnitude of the city’s cancer problem, through an increased understanding between researchers and policy makers.

She said:

“Understanding the political landscape is vital if we are to continue to make significant inroads into cancer research. As scientists, we need to understand how our research affects the bigger picture when it comes to cancer strategies and policies.

“It is equally important for policy makers to understand how our research is helping to progress the development of new treatments and therapeutic targets.

“I am very honoured to have been selected to take part in The Royal Society’s Pairing Scheme and hope that it will help provide some input to improve research and medical care outcomes particularly in cancer patients.

“Hopefully I can now share what I have learned with my fellow researchers at the North West Cancer Research Centre, and use this to enable a better understanding between our two very different worlds.”

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