An estimated 12.66 million people were diagnosed with cancer across the world in 2008, and 7.56 million people died from the disease. Just four cancer sites – lung, female breast, colorectum and stomach – accounted for twofifths of the total cases diagnosed worldwide. Lung cancer continued to be the most common cancer diagnosed in men worldwide (accounting for 16.5% of all new cases), and breast cancer was by far the most common cancer diagnosed in women (23% of all new cases). As the world’s population continues to grow and age, the burden of cancer worldwide will inevitably increase, even if current incidence rates remain the same. The United Nations high-level meeting in September 2011 provides a huge opportunity in the global fight against cancer and other noncommunicable diseases.
Focusing resources on research of high scientific quality and clinical impact will help us to work towards improving survival for people with cancer.
We undertook a thorough review of our research portfolio before putting our research strategy together, so we are confident that we are focusing our resources in the most effective way we can. We have three particular areas of focus.
Building on current strengths
We will continue to invest in our strengths in lab research, drug discovery and development, clinical research and research to understand the causes and prevention of cancer.
Our lab research to understand cancer biology is a vital area of our work and is a great strength for Cancer Research UK. We have also contributed to the discovery and development of many of the top drugs used to treat cancer. And each year over 30,000 people enter clinical trials that we support.
In addition, our scientists are world-renowned for their role in uncovering and understanding factors that increase the risk of cancer.
Realising new opportunities
We are leading on or involved in several important strategic initiatives, for example our Stratified Medicine and Genomics programmes, and the International Cancer Genome Consortium.
Other examples where we are realising new opportunities include our work in early diagnosis, imaging and biomarkers.
Diagnosing cancer at an early stage is one of the most promising ways through which we could improve cancer survival rates. Detecting and treating cancer earlier could mean thousands of cancer deaths could be avoided each year in the UK. This is a key area where we are investing in new opportunities.
The National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative (NAEDI) is at the forefront of our work in this area, aiming to co-ordinate and provide support to activities that promote earlier diagnosis of cancer.
Advances in imaging have exciting potential to help people with cancer through more accurate diagnoses, and by allowing doctors to watch how cancer cells spread and respond to treatment in real time. New opportunities in imaging could have a real impact on how cancer is treated. We are currently funding four imaging research centres and five imaging programmes.
Biomarkers are molecules that can be tested for in a person’s tissues or body fluids that answer important questions about their cancer or cancer risk. They can help doctors diagnose and screen for cancer, and work out what the best treatment for each person is. This is a new and exciting area of research which our scientists are developing.
Boosting areas of unmet need
We are taking steps to boost research into surgery and radiotherapy. Both play an important role in treatment for most people whose cancer is cured and we want to refine them further, making existing methods more effective or developing new techniques that more people can benefit from.
We will also promote more research into harder to treat cancers such as lung, oesophageal and pancreatic cancers and other cancer types with the poorest outcomes. While survival rates for other cancers have been steadily improving over the years, survival rates for these cancers are still low. We aim to improve this.
You can donate by visiting the Cancer Research Campaign.