UK’s largest health research programme recruits millions to help tackle cancer
Over 1 million people have already signed up to take part in Our Future Health. The research programme’s goal is to eventually recruit up to five million volunteers right across the UK, which will transform the prevention, detection and treatment of cancer, as well as other conditions such as dementia, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Cancer has a higher incidence rate among people from the most deprived communities** and the breadth and scale of Our Future Health will help researchers to understand how cancer progresses in people of different ages, ethnic backgrounds and levels of income.
Anyone over the age of 18 can join the programme by signing up online at ourfuturehealth.org.uk. Volunteers will have the chance to find out more about their health, including their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In the future, they will also be offered information on their risk of some diseases.
Some volunteers have joined the programme after experiencing cancer in their family. For 33-year-old Rosie, losing her dad to lung cancer made her more interested in preventative measures for her own health. Rosie commented: “If research enabled by Our Future Health leads to a world where we know we’re at risk of certain illnesses before they develop, it would mean we can make more informed lifestyle choices.
“Working as a nurse in the NHS treating mostly prostate and urological cancers, I’ve seen first-hand how a patient who is aware that they’re more at risk of developing a certain cancer can be treated more efficiently with better outcomes. If Our Future Health helps more of us know what we’re at risk of, it can only be a good thing.”
Dr Raghib Ali OBE, Chief Executive and Chief Medical Officer of Our Future Health, said: “Our Future Health will be a groundbreaking resource for cancer researchers. Large-scale population studies like Our Future Health have been critical to improving understanding of the causes of cancer , but our scale and diversity is unprecedented and will really open the door for new discoveries. For example, learning why some cancers affect people from certain backgrounds more than others and some less so – which helps us to understand how to reduce the risk in everyone. We can make a huge impact on the way cancer is prevented, detected and treated.”
Our Future Health is rolling out on a region-by-region basis to invite adults across the UK to join the programme. People who don’t live near a location where Our Future Health appointments are currently available can sign up now and be notified when new appointment locations become available.
New locations will be announced on the Our Future Health website and social media channels.
Catherine Elliott, Director of Research & Partnerships at Cancer Research UK, Founding Charity Member of Our Future Health, said: “We share the ambition of understanding and investing in cancer prevention and early detection which is a central pillar of our work to reduce the number of people who develop cancer and to improve the lives of those who do. The potential scale of this initiative and the focus to be representative of the UK population offers a unique opportunity to help us understand the causes of cancer and ways to prevent the disease more equitably across society.”
Dr Rubina Ahmed, Director of Research, Policy and Services at Blood Cancer UK, said: “Research is the only way we’ll get to the day where no lives are lost to blood cancer. We desperately need new and kinder treatments for the disease which is the UK’s third biggest cancer killer. To accelerate progress, researchers rely on people participating in data led projects where volunteers can become part of the solution. That’s why this World Blood Cancer Day, we’re encouraging anyone who can, to take part in Our Future Health, to help us make advances in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible.”
Dr Kotryna Temcinaite, Head of Research Communications at Breast Cancer Now, said: “With the involvement of up to five million volunteers, including many from diverse backgrounds that are often underrepresented in research, Our Future Health has the potential to have a real impact on the way we prevent, diagnose, and treat many different diseases.
“While breast cancer survival rates have doubled in the UK in the last 40 years, more people than ever are being diagnosed and tragically around 1,000 women die from the disease each month in the UK. We know that breast cancer has an enormous impact on individuals and their loved ones, so we need projects like Our Future Health alongside Breast Cancer Now’s world-class research to help ensure that more people with breast cancer not only live, but live well with or beyond the disease.”
Dr Chris Macdonald, Head of Research at Pancreatic Cancer UK, said: “Information collected through Our Future Health will provide valuable insight into the health of the nation over time, enabling us to learn more about a wide range of diseases, including pancreatic cancer, and study the signals present in blood samples even many years before diagnosis. This is particularly exciting for us as pancreatic cancer is frequently detected too late for treatment, with over 80% of people diagnosed in the late stages.
“The insights gained through Our Future Health will be invaluable and will doubtless help to improve early diagnosis and save lives. The more people who volunteer to take part, the more we will be able to learn, and therefore we would encourage people to sign up if they are able.”
David James, Director of Projects at Prostate Cancer Research, said: “The work that Our Future Health is doing is both important and well needed. We need to get a better understanding of what factors cause cancer, particularly prostate cancer – a disease which will affect 1 in 8 UK men in their lifetime (rising to 1 in 4 Black men). Our Future Health’s invaluable work aligns well with PCR’s mission to see a world free from the impact of prostate cancer with the upcoming launch of Prostate Progress, PCR’s new patient data platform, which we hope will help to accelerate research into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of this disease.”
Our Future Health is an ambitious collaboration between the public sector, life sciences companies and leading UK health charities including: Cancer Research UK, Blood Cancer UK, Breast Cancer Now, Pancreatic Cancer UK, Prostate Cancer Research, Prostate Cancer UK, Action Against Age-related Macular Degeneration, Alzheimer’s Society, Asthma + Lung UK, British Heart Foundation, DEBRA, Diabetes UK, Fight for Sight, Kidney Research UK, Parkinson’s UK, Royal Osteoporosis Society, Stroke Association, and Versus Arthritis.
Interviews available with spokespeople and case studies on request.
Notes to editors:
About Our Future Health
Our Future Health is a collaboration between the public, private and charity sectors. It aims to be the UK’s largest health research programme, bringing people together to develop new ways to prevent, detect and treat disease.
Our Future Health is committed to the highest standards, policies and processes that protect participants’ confidentiality, whilst maximising the opportunity to help researchers to tackle serious diseases. Participants’ data will be de-identified and held securely in trusted research environments that meet strict security criteria. There will be a robust and transparent access process to ensure appropriate research access to Our Future Health data and samples for registered researchers. All researchers will be held to the same standards.
Our Future Health is a member of the UK Health Data Research Alliance, the independent alliance of leading healthcare and research organisations establishing best practice for the ethical use of UK health data for research at scale.
Our Future Health is a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales (number 12212468) and a charity registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales (charity number 1189681) and OSCR, Scottish Charity Regulator (charity number SC050917).
*Cancer Research UK, Cancer risk statistics | Cancer Research UK Accessed January 2024.
**Cancer Research UK, Cancer incidence statistics | Cancer Research UK Accessed January 2024.