Derry’s Dr Emma is spearheading cancer fight with life-saving research

Dr Emma Kerr.
Dr Emma Kerr.

A cancer researcher from Derry is rallying people in Northern Ireland to Stand Up To Cancer and help save lives.

Dr Emma Kerr, aged 32, who works at Queen’s University Belfast, donned a special pair of boxing gloves to encourage men and women to strike a blow against cancer by raising money for vital research.

Celebrities Dr Christian Jessen, Davina McCall and Alan Carr are supporting the Stand Up to Cancer campaign.

Celebrities Dr Christian Jessen, Davina McCall and Alan Carr are supporting the Stand Up to Cancer campaign.

The cancer-fighting scientist - who hails from the Foyle Springs area of the city - is trying to find new ways to tackle bowel cancer by studying how the disease hijacks normal processes the body’s cells use to make energy and grow.

These changes can help bowel cancers resist chemotherapy, making treatment less effective.

Emma said: “The majority of bowel cancer patients will, at some stage, receive chemotherapy but unfortunately some of those patients will develop drug resistance and their tumour will stop responding to the treatment.

“My work focuses on understanding how cells use energy to grow, and how changes to these processes in cancer cells can limit how a patient responds to treatment.”

She continued: “Our aim is not only to find ways to help doctors predict which patients might not respond to chemotherapy, but to develop new ways to help these patients in the future.”

Emma began her career as a scientist at Queen’s University Belfast in 2008 when she studied under Professors Patrick Johnston and Dan Longley, two of the world’s leading bowel cancer scientists. Her research then took her to the University of Cambridge for six years to study lung cancer. She returned to Northern Ireland in June this year, after being awarded around £1.8 million by Cancer Research UK to start her own research group at the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s University.

Now Emma is urging everyone in Northern Ireland to join her and Stand Up To Cancer, to support life-saving research.

Stand Up To Cancer unites scientists, celebrities and communities. It’s supported by a host of stars including Davina McCall, Edith Bowman, Alan Carr, Joel Dommett and Kirsty Allsopp.

Money raised for Stand Up To Cancer helps take developments from the lab and transform them, quickly, into brand new tests and treatments for cancer patients.

One person is diagnosed with cancer every hour in Northern Ireland.

Dr Kerr said: “Research is cancer’s number one enemy. Stand Up To Cancer helps fund clinical trials and research projects which pack a punch in the fight against the disease.

“This research is crucial, but also very expensive. That’s why I’m calling on Northern Ireland’s fundraisers to get fighting fit and help doctors and scientists speed through breakthroughs for the benefit of cancer patients across the country.”

Since it was launched in the UK in 2012, Stand Up To Cancer has raised over £38 million to support life-saving research.

This includes the development of the ‘chemo-package’ to deliver treatment at the best time for the patient; investigations into whether exercise can prevent cancer from returning and using MRI to turn radiotherapy into a more precise, personalised and powerful anti-cancer weapon.

Dr Kerr added: “When it comes to cancer we need to box clever. By boosting funding right now, the best research teams will be able to develop innovative new treatments, bring cures faster and save more lives.”

Dr Victoria Steven, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Northern Ireland, said: “It’s time to make a stand and get payback on cancer for all the people whose lives have been cut short by this devastating disease.

“There are lots of fun ways to join the fight. You can get creative in the kitchen, get sponsored to stand out in orange at work or school or take part in a sponsored wax or head shave. A free fundraising pack is available, full of fun and creative ways to conjure up crucial cash. We are in a ‘golden age’ for cancer research and every pound raised by Stand Up To Cancer takes us a step closer to beating the disease. We will never throw in the towel. We believe this is a fight that we can win.”

For more info, check out: standuptocancer.org.uk