Bute survivor welcomes £14m lung cancer study

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A lung cancer survivor from Bute has welcomed news of a £14 million study aimed at unlocking the secrets of the disease.

Tom Muir, who lives in Rothesay, was speaking after the launch of the nine-year TRACERx study by Cancer Research UK.

The nine-year project, involving experts from Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and elsewhere, will track how lung tumours develop and evolve in real time as patients receive treatment.

One of the largest ever studies of lung cancer patients globally, it will examine exactly how lung cancers mutate, adapt and become resistant to treatments.

Tom, 71, was diagnosed with lung cancer in June 2011, and was given the devastating prognosis that he had as little as six months to live after doctors originally thought the cancer had spread.

However, further scans eventually revealed that the abnormalities in his stomach, chest and neck weren’t cancer after all but an immune system disorder called sarcoidosis.

This meant that doctors were able to remove Tom’s left lung in August 2011 and, following three months of aggressive chemotherapy, he is now cancer free.

Tom, a retired bank worker who raised £600 last year for CRUK after swimming 22 miles – the equivalent of the English Channel – with just one lung, said: “It’s brilliant that Cancer Research UK is investing in this study to find out more about lung cancer so a cure can be found sooner.

“To be told you have lung cancer is a dreadful thing but I know I am one of the lucky ones to have survived.

“All the uncertainty was very hard, especially for my wife Winifred who worried so much about what life would be like if I didn’t come through it. It was a very stressful time.

“I hope and pray that this study will be a great success so that treatments improve and more people survive.”

Researchers taking part in the study will recruit 850 lung cancer patients from across the UK and take samples of their tumour before and following surgery, and subsequently if the tumour recurs.

The landmark project will bring together more than 65 lung cancer researchers in the UK, including oncologists, pathologists, laboratory researchers and technicians based in hospitals, universities and research institutes.

Around 4,800 people are diagnosed with lung cancer every year in Scotland, but the disease has been difficult to study as it can be hard to access and take samples of tumours.

An earlier Cancer Research UK innovation means that patients will also have blood tests to examine DNA from the cancer that might be circulating in the bloodstream.

Researchers will then be able to compare genetic changes within and between patients, record how treatment changes the genetic profile of their disease, and how this ultimately affects the patients’ chances of survival.

Other research centres taking part are University College London, Velindre Cancer Centre Cardiff, Birmingham University Hospital, Leicester Hospital and the Christie Hospital in Withington and the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research in Manchester.

The study marks the start of a new Cancer Research UK initiative to beat lung cancer sooner which will also see the funding of a new centre of excellence in lung cancer research.