Cancer Research UK (CR UK) plans to increase its research funding for the diagnosis, detection, prevention and treatment of cancer by more than 50% over the next five to 10 years.

The new strategy includes a commitment to invest an additional £50 million a year in a number of new funding streams that will encourage partnership and collaboration between researchers, as well as harnessing the UK’s strength in engineering and physical sciences to address cancer challenges.

The significant hike in overall funding for cancer research envisaged in the strategy is “entirely dependent” on public donations, acknowledged CR UK chief executive Dr Harpal Kumar.

Among other features of the strategy are extra investment of over £20 million a year in research to improve earlier diagnosis of cancer.

This effort will range from fundamental research, aimed at understanding better the very early stages of cancer, to developing tests that can detect more promptly different forms of the disease.

The strategy also aims to at least double funding into four types of cancer where there is substantial unmet need and limited progress in improving survival rates: lung, pancreatic, oesophageal and brain.

New funding streams

The new funding streams designed to incentivise research partnerships and harness UK strengths in engineering and physical sciences include:

  • A ‘grand challenge’ award scheme that will bring together groups of researchers in academia and industry, both 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 high-risk/high-reward cancer research taking innovative approaches to unanswered questions in the space.      
  • New career-development awards to help mid-career clinical and non-clinical researchers develop their own independent research groups. This strand will complement Cancer Research UK’s existing £13 million investment in fellowship schemes.
  • A multidisciplinary award to enable collaborations drawing on methodologies in physics, engineering, chemistry or mathematics in the search for new ways to prevent, diagnose or treat cancer.
  • Immunology grants: this is a new scheme that will leverage the UK’s strengths in immunology research and attract more scientists to the growing field of cancer immunology.
  • Additional funding for the national network of Cancer Research UK Centres to build a world-class infrastructure for translational research in oncology.

International input

On top of all this, Cancer Research UK will continue to support, and increase investment in, all its existing funding streams. Where appropriate, these schemes will be opened up to international researchers.

“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,” commented Professor Nic Jones, chief scientist at CR UK.

“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,” Jones added.