Major Medical Research Project

major medical research project by the University of Dundee

Dundee Rotary Club funds next stage of major medical research projectMore lives could be saved through better detection of serious illness

The Rotary Club of Dundee is providing vital funds to complete a medical research project aimed at saving many more lives through the better detection of serious illnesses.

Project leader Professor Bob Steele said the population of Dundee would hugely benefit from the research because of its high levels of multimorbidity – people with two or more chronic conditions.

His team at the University of Dundee is working on a significant development of their successful bowel cancer screening programme.

They need £11,000 to complete their work over the next 12 months and Dundee Rotary Club is providing that sum from the £100,000 it is spending on good causes in and around the city to celebrate its centenary.

The bowel cancer screening programme was created in Dundee and has since been rolled out all over the UK, saving thousands of lives of people over the age of 50.

Bowel cancer can affect one in 20 people but it is one of the most treatable of cancers if detected early through faecal haemoglobin – blood in stool samples.

Professor Steele’s team developed the screening programme to identify 
bowel cancer in its early stages to allow sufferers to receive prompt treatment to greatly increase chances of positive outcomes.

Their further research has opened the distinct possibility of Faecal Immunochemical Testing (FIT) being developed to detect early signs of other serious illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.
Professor Steele explained that multimorbidity is the major cause of premature death and ill-health in developed countries.

“In Scotland life expectancy is falling with an urgent need to reliably identify people at risk of developing multi morbidity or people who are living with undiagnosed conditions,” he said.

“This would allow for preventative measures and early intervention to reduce the burden of disease.

“Recent studies using data from the bowel screening programme show that the presence of blood in stool or faecal haemoglobin is associated with increased risk of death from a number of long-term conditions unrelated to bowel cancer.

“There is also evidence that it is associated with some long-term conditions including diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.”

Across the UK around 60% of the population aged 50 to 74 have a FIT test every two years. Those recording positive tests - with a significant amount of blood in the stool  - represent 3%, and 8% of those have bowel cancer.

There are therefore large numbers of people with unexplained blood in the stool who would benefit from further assessment and treatment for the two or more multimorbidity chronic conditions.

Professor Steele continued: “If this phase of the study is successful, we could move to a phase where people with faecal haemoglobin who are found not to have bowel cancer would be offered a health questionnaire to complete, and if significant concerns were identified they would be offered a consultation.” 

If FIT proves to be effective in this respect, individuals at risk of developing multimorbidity conditions or who are at an early stage of disease would be offered the necessary preventative or therapeutic measures.

He added: “This would have significant benefits to the individual and to the health care system.

“Dundee has high levels of multiple morbidity and the city’s population would significantly benefit from this research.

“Scotland ‘s bowel screening programme is run from the Bowel Screening Centre in Dundee, making it the ideal location for the project.

“The research team in Dundee is delighted to have this donation from the Rotary Club of Dundee, as it allows us to take this important research forward to a stage where it could have a significant clinical impact.”

Robert Dunn, Chairman of the Rotary Club’s centenary committee and a former president said: “We are delighted to support this very worthwhile medical research project with Professor Bob Steele and his team at Dundee University. 

“This is another donation made this year as part of our £100,000 set aside by the Rotary Club of Dundee in recognition of the Club’s 100th anniversary.” 

Other projects previously announced that the Rotary Club of Dundee is supporting from its £100,000 Centenary Fund include:

  • a £25,000 bursary scheme for post graduate design students at the University of Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College
  • a £24,000 pilot project to provide tutoring support for pupils at four Dundee secondary schools whose education has been disrupted by the Covid pandemic£10,000 towards a £20,000 matched funding agreement with the Nine Incorporated Trades of Dundee that will see ten grants of £2000 each being awarded to ten local charities to mark the launch of the centenary year in May.

Further initiatives are being progressed and will be announced in the coming weeks and months.

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back The Rotary Club of Dundee came into being on May 19, 1921.