Charity Cancer Research UK has announced plans to spend up to £123 million over seven years in its largest ever investment into research in Scotland.

The funding pledge for the Glasgow-based CRUK Scotland Institute - formerly known as the Beatson Institute - will enable long-term studies exploring how cancers develop, grow and spread, as well as examining how the immune system can be harnessed to combat the disease.  

Specific research into liver, pancreatic, bowel and lung cancers - which have a major impact on the Scottish population - will also be supported.

CRUK said it would also "help the recruitment of international talent".

The institute employs around 300 researchers at its site on the Garscube campus, which is owned by Glasgow University. 

This is separate from the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre where patients undergo cancer treatment.

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Professor Owen Sansom, who heads up the institute, said the investment announcement was “an unprecedented vote of confidence in Scotland’s scientific prowess”.

He added: “This recognition of the hard work and determination of our researchers to find new ways to tackle cancer, as well as improve current treatments, is a major boost for both future cancer patients in Scotland and for the newly titled Cancer Research UK Scotland Institute.

“Our world-class teams are focusing on a wide range of research from investigating the very roots of how cancer begins, to finding new less invasive ways of screening and testing for the disease, as well as innovative ways to use imaging technology to monitor the progress of cancers and the effectiveness of treatment to ensure better outcomes for everyone.”  

The charity had come under fire earlier this year after it emerged that it was pulling what is known as "core funding" from its Glasgow and Cardiff clinical trials units (CTUs) in order to fund seven CTUs in England.

COMMENT: 'Since the early 1990s, around 80,000 cancer deaths have been avoided in Scotland thanks to research'

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Core funding - which is separate from lab-based research funding - pays for the staff and expertise which enables centres to lead their own full-scale clinical trials from inception up to Phase Three level, when potential new medicines are tested on hundreds or thousands of cancer patients.

This sparked anger in Scotland's academic and research communities, who warned that a lack of home-grown, original trials in Scotland would make it more difficult to attract scientific talent.

CRUK defended the decision - which followed a drop off in fundraising during the pandemic - stressing the Scottish patients would continue to access late-stage clinical trials via Scottish hospitals participating as "satellite" sites in trials led by England's CTUs, as well as via smaller-scale trials run by its Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres (ECMCs) in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

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Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, principal and vice-chancellor at Glasgow University - where many of the institute's scientists are based - said the £123m research investment was "fantastic news for Scotland, for cancer patients and for our researchers".

Scotland Health Secretary Michael Matheson said: “It is testimony to the excellence and innovation that the Institute delivers, and this funding will help ensure it continues its internationally recognised research work.”

Cancer Research UK chief executive Michelle Mitchell added: “This investment reflects our confidence that Scotland can go even further in becoming a major competitor on an increasingly competitive worldwide cancer research stage as we aim for a ‘golden era’ of life sciences.” 

Mortality rates from cancer in Scotland have fallen by around 8% over the past decade, mostly due to advances in treatment underpinned by research.

The Herald: Claire Cobban and her mother, Anne Peters, are both in remission from breast cancerClaire Cobban and her mother, Anne Peters, are both in remission from breast cancer (Image: CRUK)

Claire Cobban, from Glasgow, and her mother Anne Peters - who are both in remission from breast cancer - also welcomed the investment.

Ms Cobban, 44, lost her 34-year-old brother, Mark Peters, to a rare form of the disease - urachal cancer - in 2011. Their father, Graham Peters, also died from kidney cancer in 2017.

Ms Cobban was then diagnosed with breast cancer a year later, in May 2018, but underwent successful surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

However, the family faced a new ordeal when Mrs Peters, 70, discovered she had breast cancer in March 2021.

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Ms Cobban, a personal trainer who is married with two sons aged nine and six, said: “I was 38 and my younger son was just 18 months old when I was diagnosed with cancer.

"Mum and I were still struggling with the loss of my brother and my dad as we missed them so much. I remember worrying about even telling my mum that I had cancer. I felt so anxious.

"Our family had already been through so much, but mum was brilliant.

"She’d come to stay, make dinner for my boys if I didn’t feel great, help keep things ticking along and just listen if I wanted to talk.

"In 2021 when Mum got news she had breast cancer the tables were turned and I helped her."

Ms Cobban added: "If we can help other families facing cancer then we will.

"While there have been huge advances in treatment options for more common cancers like breast cancer, there is so much more to do.”