Cancer Research UK sunk a record £315 million into researching the killer disease last year, almost twice as much since the charity’s formation five years ago.

The group has invested heavily in investigating the causes of cancer and improving its prevention, diagnosis and treatment, with spending growth up £64 million, or 26%, on 2006, making it “the largest single independent funder of cancer research in Europe,” it said.

“The process of scientific research is hugely expensive but it is more than worth the investment, commented the charity’s Chief Executive, Harpal Kumar. “The improved survival rates we are now seeing for many types of cancer are proof that cancer research delivers results.”

Commenting on the CR UK’s success, he said: “Over the past year, thousands of lives have been saved through improved cancer treatments, earlier detection and effective health awareness campaigns,” and, looking forward, added: Over the coming year, we will review two hard-to-treat cancers, oesophageal and pancreatic cancer, to identify research that may help to prevent, diagnose or treat these diseases in the future.”

CR UK, which funds over 4,250 research scientists, doctors and nurses throughout the UK, says it plans to increase research expenditure to £400 million by 2010 to drive forward its work, and recently set itself tough goals to achieve by 2020, including increasing the overall five-year survival rate - currently 49.6% - by two-thirds.

Other targets include making the latest treatment advances available, lowering disease incidence, ensuring that patients get access to the right information, and reducing affluence-related inequalities in both incidence and survival.

Gaining ground

Recent data suggests that ground is being gained in the fight against cancer, with ten-year survival rates for all types of the disease hitting 46.2% in England and Wales earlier this year, almost doubling from the 23.6% recorded 30 years ago.

But findings of the Eurocare-4 study published in The Lancet Oncology last month painted a rather gloomy picture for cancer patients in the UK compared to those in other European countries. It found that, although survival rates are on the up, the UK is struggling to keep up with its European peers, despite its considerable healthcare budget.