Frequently asked questions

Here are some of our most frequently asked questions. Please contact us if you want to know any more about the work of UCARE.

Urology is the medical specialty that deals in the medical and surgical diseases of the kidneys and urinary tract, which include the ureters, bladder and urethra [in both genders], and the male reproductive system which includes the testes and prostate.

Uro-oncology is a speciality that deals with cancers of the kidneys, bladder and urinary tracts in both genders and male reproductive system.

Urology cancer research faces a shortage of funding in the UK. The NHS provides basic funding but doesn't have sufficient resources to fund research at a world-class level.

UCARE's support enables the vital research undertaken in Oxford to expand and to contribute internationally to the fight against urological cancers.

Cancer is disease that seems filled with uncertainties. The disease takes a different course in different people and treats that work great in one person fail for another. Where does this variability come from and what's being done about it?

In part the confusion may stem from the picture of cancer as a lump of rapidly dividing cells. This picture encourages us to see cancer as a group of basically identical cells and to see cancer in one person as similar to cancer in another.

In 2000, two scientists called Doug Hanahan and Bob Weinberg met at a conference in Hawaii and, during an eight hour site-seeing walk up a volcano chatted about their observations of how cancers work. They came to the conclusion that all solid tumours basically share a collection of common characteristics or hallmarks. They published this conversation in the journal called 'Cell'. Originally they published six hallmarks, but in 2010 they updated their ideas to include ten hallmarks.

When our bodies are healthy, every one of the trillions of cells that work every day to keep us going has to work in concert; as part of a massive, well organised team. This team will break down, if any of the cells start to change. One very powerful engine of change is evolution - the natural consequence of change and competition. Most of the ten hallmarks of cancer are descriptions of how cancer cells cease to be constructive team members and begin to take part in competition and evolution.

Two hallmarks describe how the cells become able to divide at will - multiplying requires the cells to copy their DNA and this allows mistakes to occur, these mistakes or mutations are a key to allowing evolution. One hallmark describes how cancer cells are able to encourage the growth of new blood supply thereby ensuring an adequate supply of food and oxygen. The cancer cells become able to alter their environment and evade natural predators (the immune system and some clever internal quality control). The cancer cells divide without limit allowing evolution lots of chance to work, and they become genetically unstable increasing the rate at which they can adapt / change. Finally the cells become able to move and colonise new sites - opening more opportunities to grow and adapt.

If we accept these hallmarks and the conclusion that they mostly represent the abilities needed to compete and evolve then we begin to see why cancer is so variable and difficult to combat. Each new patient is a different person, and so their cancer maybe a little different from others, because random chance and different selective pressures give a slightly different evolutionary outcome. Each organ is a different environment, and so different primary sites and different metastatic sites all have different selective pressures and so different adaptations.

Despite all of this, cancer is not invincible. Each tumour must start from scratch, since you can't pass it on to another person. And we are all fairly similar, so although cancers can be different, they also have many things in common. Now that we have a more complex understanding of cancer we are asking much more sophisticated questions about how to combat it. Scientists at Oxford University are working to understand all aspects of the hallmarks of cancer and how we might use the very things that give cancer its strength to turn the tables against it.

Dr Martin Christlieb, Department of Oncology

At present UCARE is only able to consider grant applications for research projects that will be conducted in Oxford.

UCARE's aim is to fund the best quality research by bringing together the knowledge and opinions of researchers, clinicians, and allied health professionals to support research and education in urological cancer.

All applications for UCARE grants are reviewed by our Scientific Advisory Committee and can also be subject to external review by experts in the field, to help the charity make decisions about funding in line with its objectives. The applications are judged on the scientific merit of the application; whether it addresses very important scientific or medical questions and likely to have a high impact on medical practice, or on the relevant scientific field of urological cancer.

Based on the recommendations of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the trustees, UCARE may be able to offer immediate funding or recommend applications for future targeted fundraising.

UCARE requires all grant holders to complete and return an Annual Report & Evaluation Form. The purpose of the Evaluation Form is to enable UCARE to gain a deeper understanding of the impact of our grant-making.

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