Cancer sciences in Glasgow contributed more than £500m in a year to UK economy

A new report has hailed the strength of patient-centred cancer science in the west of Scotland, estimating that cancer research in Glasgow was worth more than half a billion pounds (503m) to the UK economy in 2021-22 A new report has hailed the strength of patient-centred cancer science in the west of Scotland, estimating that cancer research in Glasgow was worth more than half a billion pounds (£503m) to the UK economy in 2021-22.

This economic impact is a direct result of the unique and integrated life sciences ecosystem that has been created in Glasgow and the West of Scotland, led by the University of Glasgow working in collaboration with the NHS, industry, patient groups, government and funders.

Written by London Economics, one of Europe’s leading specialist economics and policy consultancies, the comprehensive report captures the economic impact of the combined cancer research power of the University of Glasgow School of Cancer Sciences and the CRUK Beatson Institute (now the CRUK Scotland Institute). Working in close collaboration, these two bodies constitute the core cancer research institutions in the West of Scotland, providing world-leading academic and clinical expertise.

Of the estimated £503m of economic impact cancer sciences in Glasgow generated, £407m (81%) was associated with the impact of the institutions- combined research activities, £77m (15%) came from operating and capital spending, and £19m (4%) was attributable to the economic contribution of the institutions- teaching and learning activities. In addition, experts assessed that for every £1m of research income received, the combined power of research activities of the two institutions generated a total of £10.2m in economic impact across the UK.

The report, which focuses on cancer research activity from 2021-22, does not include the additional economic impact of the recent £123m seven-year investment by Cancer Research UK into the CRUK Scotland Institute, which is facilitated in partnership with the University of Glasgow at its Garscube campus. Announced in September 2023, the funding, which is Cancer Research UK-s largest ever investment in Scotland, followed a separate and comprehensive review led by an independent panel of international cancer experts.

Scotland experiences higher rates of cancer incidence and mortality than the rest of the UK, with disease burden particularly high in Glasgow and Greater Glasgow at more 700 cases per 100,000 residents. Glasgow is also home to the largest cancer centre in Scotland - the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre - which sees more than 8,500 new patients and over 60,000 return patients every year. These factors have inspired the creation of a unique eco-system approach to cancer research in Glasgow and the West, where university researchers work in close partnership with NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde (NHSGG&C), industry, funders and patient groups on world-leading clinical trials and healthcare innovation.

Glasgow’s world-leading cancer research in more detail

One of the world-leading cancer trials led by the University of Glasgow is INCISE, which seeks to transform bowel cancer screening and detection in the UK by developing a diagnostic tool that uses AI to predict which patients will develop future polyps and tumours. Led by Professor Joanne Edwards, Professor of Translational Cancer Pathology at the School of Cancer Sciences, INCISE is a collaboration with NHSGG&C along with industry partners, and is part of the £100 million UK Innovation Accelerator Programme.

The INCISE project aims to reduce the number of people needing repeated colonoscopy - a procedure patients find unpleasant, and which also carries a risk of complications. In addition, it was recently announced that University of Glasgow Professor Katie Robb has now received funding from Bowel Cancer UK to support the INCISE project, specifically looking at participant experiences of colonoscopy surveillance to better understand how they feel about having another colonoscopy, and whether there are any barriers to attending these procedures.

Last year, the Scottish Government’s 2023 Cancer Strategy highlighted the disproportionate impact of socioeconomic deprivation on cancer incidence and survival rates, showing that a person living in the most deprived areas in Scotland is 30% more likely to develop cancer than someone living in the least deprived areas, and also 74% more likely to die from cancer compared with the least deprived.

With socioeconomic deprivation a known health driver in the West of Scotland, patient-centred cancer research in Glasgow continues to be focused on tackling disease inequity. Most recently, Dr Fieke Froeling from the School of Cancer Sciences is part of a global, interdisciplinary team of researchers, led by the Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, who were awarded up to $25m over five years by Cancer Grand Challenges to tackle cancer inequities. Dr Fieke Froeling and her team in Glasgow will bring their expertise in pancreatic cancer research to SAMBAI project, coordinating pancreatic cancer patient recruitment within the UK, and contributing to breast and prostate cancer patient recruitment.

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, said: -This report demonstrates the huge benefits our ground-breaking cancer research brings, not only to patients in the West of Scotland, but to the region’s economy and to Scotland more broadly. It also highlights how the University and Cancer Research UK continue to work closely together through the CRUK Scotland Institute to attract world-class scientists to Glasgow.

-While this report rightly recognises the economic impact of our cancer research, as a University we are also committed to growing Glasgow City Region’s wider life sciences cluster through our development of the Glasgow Riverside Innovation District. We are proud to partner with the NHS, industry and our local communities to drive innovation, develop novel approaches to improving health and fostering sustainable economic development.-

Professor Iain McInnes, University of Glasgow Vice Principal and Head of the College of Medical, Veterinary & Life Sciences, said: -The University of Glasgow is dedicated to better understanding cancer as well as finding new, and more effective ways to treat the disease through our world-changing research. We are an institution with a strong civic conscience, and our cancer scientists are focused on ensuring their research has meaningful real-world impact for patients locally, through vital clinical trials, as well as for people nationally and internationally.

-Through world-leading projects such as INCISE, and the combined research power of the School of Cancer Sciences and the CRUK Scotland Institute, our cancer research is always centred on patients. Our research focuses on beating common cancers in Glasgow and the West of Scotland, alongside tackling the health inequalities that can lead to disease.-

Neil Gray, Cabinet Secretary for NHS Recovery, Health and Social Care, said: "We commend the significant findings outlined in the report. The estimated £503 million contribution to the UK economy in 2021-22 underscores the invaluable role of patient-centred cancer research in Glasgow and the West of Scotland.

-The collaborative efforts led by the University of Glasgow, in partnership with the Scottish Government, NHS, industry, patient groups and funders have fostered a dynamic life sciences ecosystem that drives innovation and shapes healthcare outcomes.

-This report not only highlights the economic impact but also underscores our collective commitment to advancing cancer research and addressing health disparities. Glasgow’s pioneering projects, like INCISE, demonstrate our dedication to transforming cancer screening and detection, with a focus on improving patient experiences.

-The project’s -triple helix- approach is a shining example of how collaboration between the NHS/Scottish Government, academia and industry can lead to positive outcomes. As we navigate the complexities of cancer, our commitment to patient-centred research remains unwavering."

Prof Christina Halsey, Head of the School of Cancer Sciences and Honorary Consultant Paediatric Haematologist, said: -We are determined to ensure patients are at the centre of all that we do. We work in partnership with patients, doctors, lab scientists and industry to solve some of the major challenges facing patients with cancer today. It is great to see that this not only benefits the patients themselves, but also brings economic benefits to Scotland. We thank everyone from funders to patients and their families that contribute to this collective effort.-