Reflecting on the past year with our Chair
Welcome to our 2022 annual report.
Firstly, I’m delighted to share that in 2022 Worldwide Cancer Research funded 30 new research projects worldwide, worth an incredible £6.2 million. That’s almost £1m more than in the previous year, thanks to your generosity and the kindness of all of our Curestarters.
I’m proud to report that the charity is in a strong financial position. By reserving funds and spending cautiously over the past six years, we’ve been able to remain stable through some very challenging times. When you look back, we've also had some pretty existential headwinds to fight against. The cost-of-living crisis, the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, inflation - all of these have an impact on charitable giving. Some of our strategic plans had to be delayed as a result, but we can now commit to more research, alongside investing in fundraising, to create sustainability in the long term.
The Curestarters strategy, which unites people who believe no life should be cut short by cancer, is now in place and it is beginning to bear fruit. Over the past year, we saw strong growth in our fundraising income, including regular giving, cash, events and philanthropy. At the same time, we’ve been able to invest in some innovative new research projects. This includes the work of Dr Tomer Cooks in Israel, who has been investigating how cancers spread, and of Dr Loredana Saveanu in France, who is finding ways to make immune cells target cancer cells more effectively, with co-funding from Fondation ARC.
In total, over 70 new scientific advances were published in 2022, thanks to research funded by our Curestarter community.
Every year at our Bold Ideas Gathering, our Scientific Advisory Committee chooses the most innovative projects that they think have the most potential. It’s enormously humbling to have such incredible intellectual horsepower all together on the same day, voluntarily, showcasing projects which capture their imagination in such an energising way. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re here to do: we’re here to fund really exciting, bold projects to start cures for cancer.
We punch above our weight in many respects, and the past year has been no exception to that. One of the most exciting things for me is our ability to collaborate with other charities.
For example, partnering to co-fund research projects, so that we can make our money go further. The charity also recently delivered an innovative new peer review service, utilising the organisation’s rigorous and respected project selection process to generate income.
Meanwhile, the charity has been investing in building its Curestarter community. There’s a lot of great work going on, including a commitment to growing regular giving, which is our lifeblood. Our powerful vision to end cancer by starting new cures worldwide has already attracted 27,000 new supporters.
The charity recognises that it underperforms in legacy giving, however focused effort has created more enquiries and pledges. Meanwhile, there are early signs of growth in the competitive space of trusts and foundations, where the team did exceptionally well, exceeding their targets with a values- matching approach that’s literally paying dividends. This increased investment in fundraising underpins the charity’s 10-year strategy. And while we’re very happy with the increased number of projects we’re funding, it’s still not enough. There are around 120 projects every year that we’re unable to fund, which could have led to new cures.
It is a sad inevitability that 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. By generating greater income, we can deliver sustained, higher levels of research funding and gradually move towards supporting 100 projects per year, providing more opportunities for life-changing developments.
The more research that’s undertaken, the more we can accelerate progress in finding new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.
I can’t close this note without mentioning the fantastic group of people at Team Worldwide, who are 100% committed to our cause and purpose. It’s a small team, with big ambition. And I know that if we can collectively continue to perform as well as we can, then that’s going to make a real difference.
Our vision to end cancer by starting new cancer cures worldwide starts with you. We all want to see an end to cancer, and being a Curestarter is the very first step on that journey.
David Sole OBE
Chairman of the Board of Trustees
We are Worldwide Cancer Research and we start cures for cancer
“I try to stay positive, and the more years go by, the more hopeful I am that new treatments and cures will be found. But those breakthroughs can’t happen without funding as much new cancer research as possible.”
Suzanne had just celebrated her 36th birthday when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour the size of a golf ball and given just one year to live. Suddenly everything that she had planned with her husband and two children seemed so far out of reach. Incredibly, Suzanne defied the odds and is still here today. But like many people with cancer, she lives every day knowing that it could be her last.
We are committed to increasing the volume of high-quality discovery research that we fund every year – so that more families like Suzanne’s have more time together.
This report outlines the progress that we have made in 2022 towards a day when no life is cut short by cancer.
Bringing forward cancer discoveries by funding world class research - our 2022 impact.
New research projects
Partnering to start more cures
We believe working together is key to conquering cancer.
Of the 30 new projects, 8 are funded jointly with another organisation, helping to make our Curestarters’ donations go even further.
Guts UK are supporting a project in Cambridge about oesophageal cancer.
Leukaemia UK are helping to fund a project in Edinburgh looking for new ways to treat infant leukaemia.
The French Foundation for Cancer Research (Fondation-ARC) are partnering with us to fund three projects in France.
The Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC-FC) are helping to fund a project in Spain about head and neck cancer.
Cancer Australia are helping to fund two new ideas, one about brain tumours and one focusing on leukaemia.
Working together with other organisations could mean we make big breakthroughs sooner. Thanks to all our partners we hope to end the suffering caused by cancer sooner.
Outputs and breakthroughs
Over 70 new scientific advances were published in 2022 thanks to research funded by our Curestarters. This included a number of important breakthroughs that have helped us understand more about cancer:
Our scientists in Italy discovered a previously unknown way that breast cancer cells survive treatment.
One team of researchers in Spain have found a new way to spot if someone is at higher risk of pancreatic cancer, and even diagnose patients at an early stage of the disease.
Our scientists in Germany discovered that they could prevent head and neck cancer spreading by stopping it from getting the extra energy it needs to do so.
Another team in Spain made a breakthrough that could help treat people with cancer that has spread to the brain.
Scientists in Italy have made a breakthrough that could lead to better, more effective immunotherapy options for cancer patients.
Breakthroughs like these are vital if we hope to see a day when no life is cut short by cancer.
Understanding mantle cell lymphoma - a rare and difficult to treat cancer
Identifying potential targets for new cures through ground-breaking research
Mantle cell lymphoma develops in blood cells and lymph nodes and, devastatingly, the vast majority of patients cannot be cured. The average survival for mantle cell lymphoma is just 3-5 years. However, there are a small number of patients who have a stable form of the disease and manage without treatment for long periods of time.
Back in 2011, Worldwide Cancer Research funded Dr Beà, a cancer researcher in Spain, who had a bright idea about how to find new cures for mantle cell lymphoma. She wanted to look for the differences in the more stable form of this disease and hoped to reveal more about the molecular and genetic nature of the disease.
“Currently only around 40% of patients with mantle cell lymphoma survive for 5 years or more after diagnosis.”
Dr Beà’s research provided insights into the causes and evolution of this complex type of cancer and identified potential targets for new cures. Ibrutinib is a targeted cancer drug used to treat mantle cell lymphoma but, unfortunately, cancer can often evolve resistance to ibrutinib and the treatment stops working.
Dr Beà's breakthrough helped find ways to overcome this resistance. Her research led to several future discoveries and, most excitingly, to a clinical trial testing a new combination treatment for mantle cell lymphoma. If this extensive patient study is successful, the new approach will hopefully be approved and used to treat many more patients in the future.
All new cancer cures start with discovery research, carried out by researchers like Dr Beà. We know that by funding more world-class researchers who think outside the box, we can stop the suffering caused by cancer - including rarer cancers like mantle cell lymphoma.
“I would like to say to Curestarters that their donations can be instrumental in the early stages of scientific research that otherwise would not even have started.”
Curestarter Fiona’s Story
“I was devastated and didn’t think I would have any future – but a lifesaving new drug gave me hope.”
Fiona and her husband looked forward to retiring together and often talked about their plans. But out of nowhere Fiona was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer, and their lives were turned completely upside down.
“I live with my husband in a lovely village in south Perthshire. We love to go walking together, visit family and friends across the country and, when we can, travel further afield. Another passion of mine is singing – I sing in a local choir and my secret ambition is to perform at an Edinburgh jazz club one day!”
“I worked in the NHS for forty very rewarding years in a huge variety of different roles – as a nurse, a midwife, a health visitor, an occupational health nurse, a researcher, and finally a further education lecturer. I didn’t intend on retiring for at least another four or five years, but sadly I had to take ill-health early retirement when I became unwell. It was a very strange way to finish my career.”
"I was on annual leave when I had the appointment that changed everything."
“I had been experiencing some nagging symptoms, but I was convinced that it would all be down to something very minor that could be easily dealt with – so convinced that I had postponed my appointment for a week, because of our holiday plans.”
“But as soon as I saw the gynaecologist, I knew she suspected something much more serious. A whirlwind of tests followed – an internal ultrasound, blood tests and then a CT scan. My husband and I tried to fill the time waiting for the results by visiting local areas and going for long walks, but my overwhelming memory is of being full of anxiety.”
“Soon it was confirmed – I had ovarian cancer. Then, not long after, a biopsy revealed the cancer was advanced. It was devastating to get that news and we were both so scared. All I could think about was of my experience working in gynaecology and of the people I had met on the ward.”
“I knew all too well how few treatments had been available for ovarian cancer for such a long time, and I had seen far too many patients sent home with the unthinkable knowledge that there were no options left. It was always absolutely devastating to see them leave, knowing that there was nothing more that could be done for them.”
"And now I was facing that same dread and uncertainty. It felt impossible to make any plans for the future because I was convinced that it was a future I wouldn’t be here for."
“I was booked in for surgery just two weeks after the biopsy results, which was a scary prospect as the operation was a major one. Then, after I recovered, I started six months of chemotherapy. I coped with it quite well and remained as positive as I could, but I found it quite traumatic to lose my hair – I’m a redhead, so it was such a big part of my identity. Still, I remember smiling as I entered the chemotherapy unit, as I was so glad to be starting more treatment that would hopefully knock out the cancer cells.”
“Seven weeks after I had completed my chemotherapy, I began taking olaparib. I was considered a good fit for this treatment option as it had been determined that I had the BRCA2 mutation – something that surprised me at the time, as I had no history of breast or ovarian cancer in my family. I remember my oncologist explaining that a clinical trial had very recently shown significant benefits of treatment with olaparib in patients with advanced ovarian cancer.”
“It does make me feel very lucky in a way, that my diagnosis happened when it did – after this clinical trial had taken place and olaparib had been approved for use by the NHS. Sadly, I know that for many people, this wasn’t the case. Prior to the development of olaparib and other drugs like it, there had been no real change in the treatment of advanced ovarian cancer for decades, and the outlook was grim for most patients.”
“But olaparib was a complete game-changer. It’s been revolutionary for the treatment of ovarian cancer.“
“I have done well on olaparib and incredibly I have now reached a stage where most of the time I can put cancer to the back of my mind. I turned 60 recently and my husband and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. It’s difficult to put into words how extremely grateful I am that I now feel like I have a future.”
“So many people were involved in the development of olaparib, from Professor Steve Jackson and all the scientists carrying out the research, to the Curestarters like you who helped fund it. To every single person, I would like to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have given me more time to live my life, with the people I love – and given me hope for the future."
Diversity and inclusion
Cures start thanks to opportunity without barriers – our commitment to diversity and inclusion
Worldwide Cancer Research was founded with one mission – to conquer cancer – and the charity has always been centred on the inclusive principle that lifesaving cancer research ideas can start anywhere, with anyone.
But we sit within two worlds, the charity sector and the medical research sector, that we know are not diverse enough either in the UK or globally. Cancer affects people of every nationality, ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, level of wealth and state of physical and mental health. Yet neither sector reflects the diversity of the millions of people around the world, including hundreds of thousands of people in the UK, who are diagnosed with cancer every year.*
In 2022 we have been focusing on the promotion of diversity and inclusion in our recruitment and research grant processes, so that we can ensure that our funding and hiring decisions are unbiased and fair. Steps that we have taken have included:
1. Pledging to ‘show the salary’ and reviewing the use of language in all our job descriptions.
2. Actively working towards our gender balance target on our Scientific Advisory Committee.
3. Introducing our new hybrid working policy to help facilitate inclusion.
4. Ramping up our grant round marketing so that more pioneering researchers around the world know about our funding opportunities.
5. Continuously seeking and sharing knowledge and best practice to provide support to our wider team.
This is just the start, and it is something that we will continue to work at every single day.
We have a responsibility to ensure that diversity and inclusion is at the heart of our work and everything we do if we truly want to see a day where no life is cut short by cancer. We know that it is actions, not words, that make a difference, and we commit to being open, transparent, and reflective as we continue to work to create meaningful change.
*In 2020 18.1 million people were diagnosed with cancer worldwide and 409,000 of those were in the UK.
A note from Worldwide Cancer Research’s Diversity & Inclusion Steering Group:
“Evidence shows that diversity increases creativity and funding exciting and creative cancer research is our priority – because that’s how we will reach a day when no life is cut short by cancer.”
How our Curestarters raised grant funding in 2022
The kindness and generosity of our supporters means the world to us, to our researchers, and to people affected by cancer all around the world.
In 2022 our Curestarters once again stood united by a common purpose to stop cancer by starting new discoveries worldwide. From making a regular gift or playing our Lottery, to taking part in an event or pledging to leave us a gift in their Will - they all helped us to champion discovery research with their Curestarter spirit.
While we saw some post-pandemic stability in 2022, the impact of the war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis have affected households. This is something we have seen reflected in our donations because we have traditionally had a reliance on individual giving, which means that we can be particularly affected by pressures on household incomes.
This reaffirmed the need for us to be ready for the fundraising challenges of the future and for our fundraising strategy to be focused on income diversification, so that we can achieve our objective of growing sustainable net income every year – allowing us to continue to fund more crucial research.
By giving more Curestarters more opportunities to support Worldwide Cancer Research in the way that works best for them, we have been able to overcome the challenges we faced in 2022 and together we have been able to overcome the challenges we faced in 2022, achieving a total fundraising income of just over £10m.
We brought our fundraising and philanthropy team together for the first time in 2022, committed in our strategy to grow and diversify Curestarter relationships. And as well as continuing to grow our individual giving programme, we also expanded our reach in philanthropy and legacies.
To increase the quality and quantity of discovery research funded globally every year we need to grow income, and this requires a level of investment which we were pleased to be able to undertake in 2022, increasing fundraising expenditure to £3,984,920.
In particular we focused on investment in:
The Collective: We are excited to launch our new giving club for those who are able to donate over £1,000 each year, giving exclusive access to events and insight.
Legacy fundraising: Allowing us to establish long-term relationships with those who are able to leave us a gift in their will. Developing a marketing approach and the skills needed for legacy administration.
Face to face fundraising: enabling us to engage with the public in a compelling way to reach new supporters and increase the numbers of regular givers we can acquire each year.
To every single Curestarter, we can’t thank you enough. We are so grateful for the progress we made together in 2022 and we can’t wait to see what we achieve in 2023.
2022 in numbers
Our dedicated Curestarters donated to fund more lifesaving discovery cancer research in 2022, raising over £10 million to start new cures worldwide.
The charity reported strong fundraising income with growth across all key income lines with the exception of legacy income which in 2021 benefited from an an unexpected number of high-value bequests. This performance was delivered despite the challenging fundraising environment, where the cost-of-living crisis presented headwinds in both retaining and recruiting supporters.
Charitable expenditure increased by 12% to £7.5m (£6.7m in 2021) driven by the increase in the level of new research funded. Fundraising costs in 2022 were £4m, (£3m in 2021) as the charity made significant investment in new supporter acquisition, attracting 27,000 new Curestarters.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, our Board of Trustees adopted a conservative and cautious approach to reserves. Reductions in both the number of new research projects funded and operational expenditure in 2020, continued prudence in 2021 and unexpected levels of legacy income in late 2021 resulted in a strong reserves position at the end of 2021.
In planning for 2022, the Board reviewed the strategic approach to reserves and made the decision to commit to higher levels of research funding for the year, and an increased investment in fundraising. This decision was made with a view to securing significantly higher levels of research funding in the medium term.
The Board’s strategy is to continue this approach, running with an annual deficit for the next two to three years. In support of this strategy, the Board has designated £4m of the charity’s reserves to support higher levels of research funding over the next two to three years. Delivery of this strategy, alongside significant unrealised investment losses, reduced the total reserves held by the charity by £3.8m (33%) in 2022
Reserves were split between restricted, designated and general reserves as follows:
- Restricted Reserves £19k (2021: £nil)
This represents funds that are subject to restrictions including to specific research projects or cancer types.
- Designated Reserves £4.0m (2021: £nil)
This represents unrestricted funds ringfenced by the Directors for future research projects.
- Unrestricted Reserves £3.6m (2021: £11.4m)
These funds are expendable at the discretion of the Directors in furtherance of the objects of the charity. Each year the Directors assess the level of reserves and the use of these funds when the annual budget is prepared and approved.
For more on income, expenditure and reserves, download the full PDF copy of the annual report.
Download a copy of the report (PDF file)
Looking ahead to 2023 with our Chief Executive
It’s been another incredible year, thanks to you, our Curestarter community.
Together we’ve been able to fund 30 new research projects - that’s 20% more groundbreaking research than in the previous year. And by funding more projects, we can potentially start more cancer cures.
Alongside funding even more research, we’ve been developing our organisation strategy, which you will see come to life in the year ahead. We remain focused on our vision, which is to see a day when ‘no life is cut short by cancer’. For me, this sums up what most of us fear about cancer: The fear of losing time or a life that we really should have had. This includes the way cancer turns lives completely upside down. By 2030, cancer will be the world’s leading cause of death.
Worldwide Cancer Research will deliver on its purpose, ‘to stop cancer by starting new discoveries worldwide’, by ambitiously expanding our global search, funding more bold ideas and increasing our impact in prevention, diagnosis and treatment. This means encouraging scientists around the world to keep asking the right questions. Questions that could improve and save countless lives.
Our research strategy is focused on innovation, and there are some exciting and creative ideas emerging. For example, immunotherapy has been part of our portfolio for a very long time and it’s an absolute game-changer. When we began funding immunotherapy, it was very early days, so there was an element of holding our nerve. We are so glad we did, because today, it’s working. In fact, in some cases you can stop giving patients immunotherapy and they continue to be in remission, because you’ve retrained the immune system. And that’s what we want, isn’t it? To actually stop cancer.
It feels like we’re finally in the first full year post pandemic. Like every other organisation, for three years we’ve been on a slightly defensive footing. The great news is that we ended 2022 with a strong cushion of financial reserves that we will invest gradually over the next two to three years. There are still significant risks on the horizon, so we are prudently managing our finances to ensure growth is sustainable long term - because cancer isn’t going away anytime soon. However, we’re ready to start thinking much more proactively about the future of our research programme.
For the past few years we’ve also been steadily building the partnerships side of our work, match-making projects we want to fund, to further our potential impact. For the first time, the upcoming 2023 Grant Round is co-badged with five other charities, and over time, I’d like to see this evolving into something even bigger - perhaps a network funding groundbreaking discovery research worldwide.
We’re also challenging ourselves to scrutinise the impact the charity has made for cancer patients, and one thing we’ve got planned for 2023 is an impact report. I’ve seen some initial data and it’s really, really exciting... So watch this space!
Everyone who supports Worldwide Cancer Research is a Curestarter, and we always strive to keep this community at the heart of the charity, offering many different ways to get involved - from doing an event to leaving a legacy to fund future research. In the past few months we’ve also launched The Collective, our philanthropic giving club, and we look forward to seeing this grow.
While funding for discovery research has declined by 25% in the past 15 years, we know there are still many more essential discoveries to be made. It remains important to diversify our investment and fund as many new projects in as many different fields of cancer research as we can. We allow science to follow where the science leads, by being open-minded, focusing on innovation and never restricting scientists by our own imagination. Discovery is a vital part of the research journey that starts with new ideas in the lab and ends with new cures for cancer, so I thank you wholeheartedly for being a part of it.
Over the year ahead, I hope that you and the rest of the Curestarter community will see ever more clearly the impact that your generous support makes. Together we are creating incredible global change, for people affected by cancer now and in the future
Dr Helen Rippon