UK charity to increase cancer research spend by 50%

Cancer Research UK is to increase its spending on research by more than 50% over the next five to 10 years as part of an ambitious new strategy, launched today.

The bold new vision for its research programme shows the charity becoming a pivotal player in cancer research, not just in the UK, but on the global research stage.

Cancer Research UK is already the world’s biggest independent cancer research charity, and its new strategy aims to increase prevention, provide earlier diagnosis and improve treatment.

In this way the charity’s vision is more ‘joined up’ than virtually another other research organisation in the field, and it also fills in the gaps in research not covered by government or industry.

The charity spent £351 million on research in 2013 – a small fraction of what individual pharma companies spend – but nevertheless funded a very broad range of projects, including clinical trials involving more than 35,000 patients.

Prevention and improved treatment

The extra funding will support ongoing research into preventing cancer, developing new treatments and making existing ones more effective and personalised to the patient. The charity will substantially increase investment in research aimed at earlier detection and diagnosis.

The charity will also invest an extra £50 million a year into new funding streams to foster collaboration between researchers, and harness the UK’s strength in engineering and physical sciences to address challenges in cancer. New areas include:

• A “grand challenge” award scheme to bring together groups of researchers in academia and industry, in the UK and overseas to answer the biggest questions in cancer. These awards will be worth up to £20 million.

• An innovation award open to all areas of cancer research for high-risk but high-reward research that takes innovative approaches to tackle unanswered questions in cancer.

• New career development awards to support clinical and non-clinical mid-career researchers at a critical time in their working life to develop their own independent research groups – this will complement Cancer Research UK’s existing £13m investment in fellowship schemes.

• A multidisciplinary award to enable collaborations that use approaches in physics, engineering, chemistry or mathematics in the hunt for new ways to prevent, diagnose or treat cancer.

• Immunology grants – a new scheme to harness the strength in UK immunology research and bring more researchers to the growing field of cancer immunology, building on recent successes in immunotherapies

• Additional funding to the national network of Cancer Research UK Centres to build a world-class infrastructure for translational research

Helping UK ‘punch above its weight’ in research

Cancer Research UK will also continue to fund and increase investment to all existing funding streams – which could also be opened up to international researchers.

Professor Nic Jones, Cancer Research UK’s chief scientist, said: “Our understanding of cancer has been transformed over the last few years and our new strategy looks to place Cancer Research UK at the heart of future advances and ensure that UK cancer research continues to punch well above its weight on the international stage.

“We want to bring new researchers into cancer research – from a range of different disciplines and give them the freedom and flexibility to pursue their boldest ideas. Our strategy will support the best scientists and doctors throughout their careers – from those making their first steps to world-leading researchers – to make this a reality.”

“We want to excite the research community to tackle the biggest questions in cancer so we can accelerate our understanding in order to bring real benefits for patients – from detecting the disease earlier to better and kinder treatments.”

An increase of over £20 million a year will be invested into research to improve the earlier diagnosis of cancer which has the potential to save many more lives. This will span fundamental research to understand better the very early stages of cancer, to the development of tests to detect different forms of the disease earlier.

The charity plans to at least double funding into four cancers with substantial unmet need – lung, pancreatic, oesophageal and brain – where there has been limited progress in improving survival rates. Recent investments in Cancer Research UK’s Stratified Medicine Programme and the Tracer X lung cancer study are examples of the approach Cancer Research UK will take.

Francis Crick Institute

Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “Working closely with the research community in developing this strategy, I’ve been struck by the sense of excitement and optimism. Whilst no-one underestimates the challenges and barriers we have to overcome, there is an overriding belief that the next several years can, and will, transform the outlook for cancer patients.

“Our ambitious plan is to increase investment into cancer research by 50%, but this is entirely dependent on public donations.

“To make this a reality we will need to bring new ideas and insights to the table and adapt new approaches, such as those that we envisage at the new Francis Crick Institute, a world-leading biomedical research centre, set to open in 2015 and of which Cancer Research UK is a founding partner.”


Next steps for cancer care: commissioning, integration, research and improving outcomes


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