The programme


Medical detection and treatment of cancer is improving as we learn more about its genetic causes. Today, rather than focusing on changes or mutations in single genes which allow tumours to grow and spread, scientists are exploring how sets of genes, called ‘genomes’, contribute to cancer. This has led to the development of new tests to detect and screen for cancer, and the potential for treatments to be more tailored to individual patients. Patients are more involved in cancer research, for example in clinical trials. Patients are also more involved in advising on how cancer services are delivered.

Our research will focus on how these rapid developments in cancer research and care are changing what it’s like to be a cancer patient.  Professor Sarah Cunningham-Burley, from the University of Edinburgh, and Professor Anne Kerr, from the University of Leeds are leading the research. Both are sociologists of health, illness and medicine.

Our study will explore what these medical and scientific developments mean for people with cancer as well as those around them. We’ll interview cancer patients, their families, scientists, healthcare professionals and the wider public. We’ll also observe the work being done at cancer research centres, and in clinics. We want to see how these new developments in the scientific understanding of cancer influence how doctors treat people – and in turn influence people’s experiences of cancer and treatment, their relationships with health professionals and researchers, and their hopes and concerns for the future.

We’ll conduct the research around four main themes:

  • The potential offered by advances in tailored treatment
  • How early screening for cancer, and testing after cancer, is
    changing a patient’s experience
  • What it’s like for patients involved in cancer research, especially clinical trials
  • How patients influence research and care, including via the media, on-line and as part of support or campaign groups

We hope that this work will help change health policy for the better, and improve the care cancer patients get at all stages.