Biology, ecology and biomedical science at Brighton

University of Brighton biosciences blog

Dr Melanie Flint

Brighton scientists helping Cancer Research UK campaign

With fundraising events cancelled due to COVID-19, University of Brighton scientist Dr Melanie Flint is calling on people to back a new Cancer Research UK appeal for donations to get life-saving research back on track.

Cancer researchers at the University were forced to leave their labs when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Four months on, this vital work at Dr Flint’s lab in Moulsecoomb is slowly re-starting.

During lockdown, Cancer Research UK, which funds Dr Flint’s lab, has suffered a devastating £160 million loss of funding. And now, with more cuts likely to follow, Dr Flint, a cancer biologist, is concerned about the fallout for patients. Ultimately, for some, that could be a matter of life or death.

Dr Flint, Reader in the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Science and from the Centre for Stress and Age-Related Disease, is backing an urgent new appeal from Cancer Research UK for donations to help get life-saving work back on track. Fundraising events like Race for Life had to be cancelled and the charity’s 600 shops had to close, leading to the multimillion drop in income in the year ahead. As a result, the charity has had to make the difficult decision to cut £44 million in research funding – and this is likely to be just the beginning.

Dr Flint wants to help highlight the threat the funding gap poses to future breakthroughs for cancer patients in Sussex and across the UK. The funding crisis is powerfully brought to life in a new TV appeal film. It shows a cancer patient on the verge of finding out whether her treatment has been successful, when the video pauses at the critical moment.

Dr Flint, who has a 10-strong team at Brighton, said her PhD students were devastated when they had to walk away from months of work in March. She said: “People have been doing what they can from home – analysing and summarising their data.”

Dr Flint’s co-principal investigator, Professor Bhavik Patel, Professor of Clinical and Bioanalytical Chemistry and a bioanalytical chemist, said it was frustrating to have to close the labs when they were so close to a conclusion.

“It was a real kick in the stomach because we were in a period with our research where it was the most exciting it has ever been.

“Both our projects had a single experiment that we needed to complete to tip it over the edge.

“The really hard part is that we know what needs to be done and we’re so close we could touch it, but we can’t.”

Dr Flint said: “Research into cancer is facing a crisis where years and even decades worth of work could be lost in a matter of months. Every day and every pound counts, so I hope people will give what they can to help us keep making new discoveries.

“As researchers our mission is clear – beat cancer. And with the impact of COVID-19 being keenly felt by people with the disease, it’s never been more important.

“My message to people is to please, if at all possible, to continue to fundraise. That money is desperately needed and every penny will help us continue our experiments in the lab. We need to keep this cutting-edge science moving forward. Momentum is the key and we have lost that.

“There is still so much we don’t know about cancer and we are working on bringing in the immune system, but we need the funding so we can continue moving these projects forward.”

Cancer Research UK’s work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has been at the heart of progress that has seen patient survival in the UK double in the last 40 years. Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, the charity currently funds around 50 per cent of all publicly-funded cancer research in the UK.

Lynn Daly Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Sussex, said: “We’re grateful to Dr Flint for helping to underline the stark reality of the current situation.

“With around 51,400 people diagnosed with cancer every year in the South East*, we will never stop striving to create new and better treatments. But we can’t do it alone.

“We’re urging people to do what they can – donate, sign up to Race for Life at Home or shop at our recently re-opened stores. With help, we believe we will still beat cancer.”

Last year, Cancer Research UK spent £34 million in the South East – including £1 million in Brighton – on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research.

To donate, go to

Every test and treatment for cancer starts out as an idea in a scientist’s brain – a vision that has to be rigorously tested and validated in the lab before it is taken to the clinic.

Having the very best equipment in the lab is key to ensuring researchers’ visions can become clinical realities for patients. But because the researchers work on the very edge of innovation, they sometimes have to invent the technologies they need as they go along, to keep pace with their ideas.

Dr Flint and Professor Patel, are using their Multidisciplinary Project Award from Cancer Research UK, to build a new piece of kit that’s capable of measuring the volatile molecules that build up in cancer. These are molecules which, depending on the amount and type, can either help or hinder a tumour’s growth and resistance to treatment.

By building the technology required to measure these molecules in patient samples, they hope to be able to define the best treatment combinations and develop new treatment options for people with cancer. If successful, they’ll have opened the door to a whole new type of research.


Every year, around 51,400 people are diagnosed with cancer in South East.*

Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, Cancer Research UK was able to spend over £34 million in the South East last year on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research.

But the crucial work of researchers like Dr Flint is under threat due to a devastating loss of funding caused by COVID-19.

There are lots of different ways people can help to get life-saving research back on track by:

· Making a donation

· Taking part in Race for Life at Home

· Signing up to Cycle 300

· Shopping at recently re-opened Cancer Research UK stores

Donate now at

Stephanie Thomson • July 29, 2020

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