A DOCTOR has warned that decades of cancer research could be lost “in a matter of months”.

Dr Melanie Flint, who leads a ten-strong research team in Brighton, says the coronavirus fallout is leading to a crisis which “could be a matter of life or death”.

Like everyone else, cancer scientists at the University of Brighton were forced to down tools when the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

Four months on, this vital work at Dr Flint’s laboratory is slowly re-starting.

But with new safety measures in place and complex experiments to recover, it could take months to get back up and running at full speed.

To make matters worse, during lockdown, Cancer Research UK, which funds Dr Flint’s lab, has suffered a “devastating” £160 million loss of funding.

Dr Flint said: “People have been doing what they can from home – analysing and summarising their data. But they want and need to be back in the lab

“However, even though they are desperate to do this – giving up holidays etc – there is a question mark over how many of them will be able to return because of the uncertainty around funding.

“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.”

She is backing an urgent new appeal from Cancer Research UK for donations to help get life-saving work back on track.

Fundraising events such as Race For Life had to be cancelled and the charity’s 600 shops had to close, meaning a huge drop in income.

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.

She said: “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 its supporters, the charity currently funds about half of all publicly funded cancer research in the UK.

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

“With about 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.”