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This is the Start
of the End

of Cancer

The end of cancer starts here

The charity that will end cancer by starting new cures

St Andrews is known for its golf, university and its beautiful beaches. It is also the small town on the east coast of Scotland where one cancer research pioneer set out to conquer cancer – from his kitchen table.

Dr Colin Thomson, a Yorkshireman born in Whitby in 1937, studied at Leeds University where he achieved a First Class degree in chemistry, and PhD in 1961, working on electron spin resonance. He spent a postdoctoral period at the University of California in Los Angeles before becoming a post-doctoral research fellow in Cambridge before moving to Scotland to be a lecturer at St Andrews University in 1964.

It was from their home in St Andrews that Colin, with the support of his wife Maureen, founded the Association of International Cancer Research. They made progress in that time, funding research projects from around the world, changing the course of cancer research and making life changing breakthroughs.

Tragically, Colin himself succumbed to myeloma, a type of blood cancer, in 1997. His dream of conquering cancer in his lifetime may not have been realised – but his cure starting spirit lived on.

The charity continued to fund cancer research globally, changing name in 2014 to Worldwide Cancer Research and moving to Edinburgh as it sought to increase funding and expand its global reach. CEO Dr Helen Rippon took the reins in 2016 to lead an ambitious new strategy to fund more, quality discovery research than ever before.

Some things may have changed, but the vision Colin set has not. Worldwide Cancer Research remains the only UK charity funding exclusively discovery research, thinking outside the box and exploring new ideas to discover new ways to prevent, diagnose or treat cancer. This small but mighty charity continues to partner with the brightest researchers to start cancer cures that will help save lives now, and for generations to come.

Our supporters – our Curestarter community – continue to raise millions of pounds to fund visionary researchers around the world. So no one ever has to say goodbye, too soon.

We are Worldwide Cancer Research and we start cancer cures.

We start new, innovative research

The only UK cancer charity to fund only discovery research

We know that without starting new cures for cancer, there can be no end. The projects funded by our committed Curestarter community sit at the very beginning of the cancer research journey, they are brand new ideas from scientists asking big, challenging questions about how cancer works.

This specific type of research is known as discovery research. In practical terms, it means our scientists are seeking to discover something entirely new about the nature of cancer. The knowledge gained from this type of research is the foundation of all future tests and treatments for cancer. This is also why we fund research into any type of cancer.

However, there has been a 25% decline in discovery research funding from public and third sector organisations around the world since 2006 – as a result, we are missing out on countless life saving advances and new, better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.

This is a gap we are determined to fill by increasing the volume of high quality, discovery research our charity funds around the world every year. That’s why we have a new, ten-year strategy that sees us increase the volume of projects funded from 25 per year to 100 per year.

We will continue to fund this discovery research around the globe, because we know that the best ideas in cancer research aren’t limited to one country – the answers to cancer could come from any scientist, anywhere in the world.

Since 1979 we have funded new research in institutes across 35 countries – so as well as looking to increase our funding, we are also seeking to expand our reach to ensure we are seeing the best bold ideas worldwide.

Cures start with global experts – our funding process

How we decide what to fund

Every year, we start by asking researchers from all over the world to send us their most innovative new idea, which they believe could transform our understanding of cancer. There are so many great ideas to choose from that we can’t do it alone. To make sure we’re funding the very best ideas for new cancer cures, every single one is reviewed by experts from around the world in that area of cancer research.

Our Scientific Advisory Committee

We also enlist the help of a select group of world-leading cancer researchers who volunteer their time to help us pick the very best of the bunch. This expert group, known as our Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC), ensure that the research projects we end up funding meet the requirements of our research strategy and provide the best possible chance of starting new cancer cures for the future. Each year, the SAC meets at our Bold Ideas Gathering to decide which projects should be funded with the budget available.

We can’t fund all the big ideas

There are so many great ideas out there, but we can’t fund them all. Every year we are missing out on research that could be the start of new cancer cures for the future. Between 2017 and 2021, we have had to let 565 fantastic projects go, including many ideas for new cures for cancer because we couldn’t fund them.

How we decide what to start

Researchers from around the world submit their idea that needs funding
Ideas are checked by the Scientific Advisory Committee to make sure they meet our Research Strategy
Ideas are sent out for peer review by external cancer research experts
Best of the bunch are selected to go to the Bold Ideas Gathering
Scientific Advisory Committee meets nat the Bold Ideas Gathering to pick the very best ideas to fund

Partnering to start more cures

We believe collaboration is key to conquering cancer

Co-funding is a key pillar of our research strategy, ensuring that we fund more, quality research every year, and raising awareness of our charity and the importance of discovery research within the research funding community.

In 2021 we co-funded new research projects into endometrial, pancreatic, breast and ovarian cancers. Since 2018 we have co-funded 11 projects with six partners, four in the UK and two internationally. In total we have leveraged £1,160,726 from our partners.

We collaborate with other charities that share a common goal to support ground-breaking discovery research. Our partners include The Brain Tumour Charity, Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund, Kidney Research UK, Asociación Española Contra el Cáncer, Pancreatic Cancer UK and Cancer Australia.

By combining resources with our partners, we can take more steps toward the day that no life is cut short by cancer.

We start for people with cancer

So that no one ever has to say goodbye too soon

Thanks to research like ours, survival rates have doubled in the UK since Colin Thomson started the charity in 1979. Today, 1 in 2 people diagnosed with cancer expect to survive 10 years or more after diagnosis. We have made great progress in the last 40 years.

But our work is far from finished.

In 2020 it was estimated that, around the world, 19.3m people were diagnosed, and 9.9m people died from cancer. It is statistics like these that give context to the progress we’ve made. By 2030, cancer is set to become the leading cause of death worldwide – that’s why we need discovery research now, more than ever.

In the pages to come you will read the story of our inspirational Curestarter Eilidh who was diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukaemia aged just 14. She endured weeks of intense chemotherapy, a sedated coma and had to learn to do many everyday tasks all over again – before being diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2019. This is why we start cures for cancer.

We start cures for cancer few have heard of, and the ones we know too well. We start for families like Eilidh’s – and families like yours. We start for someone who is no longer with us - and so that no one everhas to say goodbye too soon

Curestarter Eilidh’s Story

Curestarter Eilidh and her family were devastated when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, aged 14, after experiencing lung pain and cramps in her legs. Blood tests revealed leukaemia and Eilidh was admitted to hospital for treatment.

“I received four weeks of intense chemotherapy; however, I reacted very badly to the chemo and ended up in intensive care. I was put in a sedated coma for two months and also received lifesaving surgery on my gut. When waking up, all I could do was blink, and over the past years, I’ve had to relearn how to do absolutely everything – including learning to walk again.”


In February 2019, Eilidh was also diagnosed with thyroid cancer. “My doctors knew about it for the years I was in the hospital, but I was clueless. When I was in intensive care and had a tracheostomy operation, an abnormal node was discovered near my thyroid, and a sample was taken. The results showed that I had a second cancer... thyroid cancer.

“Fortunately, the surgery to remove the tumour went perfectly, and in July 2019, I officially became cancer free for both cancers and have been in remission since.

This year on 4th July 2022, I celebrated my three-year cancer free milestone meaning that I am officially past the halfway mark of being five years cancer free! Slowly the chances of my cancer returning are slowly disappearing and it is a step closer to being cured. I am looking forward to my future.

“Cancer has definitely changed me. I have a new perspective on life, and I am so much more grateful for everything around me, but I have been left with both physical and mental scars. Not being able to walk and using a wheelchair has been the biggest obstacle I’ve faced. “

After my own life-changing cancer journey, I decided to share my story. Going through what I did when I was so young was terrifying, and I wanted to let others in similar situations know they are not alone. Over the years, I have met many teenagers going through the same as me and we have formed a special bond.

“The work of Worldwide Cancer Research means so much to me. It means hope. It means the possibility that one day in the future, cancer cures will exist. But until that day, their work is helping cancer patients across the globe, and that is a pretty incredible thing to be able to do!”

“It has taken me a while to come to terms with the battle I’ve been through but knowing that I am doing my bit to help others and change the world for the better has helped me heal. I will always be a cancer kid, but I have learned to be empowered by this. The door to my cancer life will always be ajar so I can revisit memories when I want to, but I will not let cancer control or define me anymore.

“Cures for cancer are out there! We are making amazing progress, but we still have a long way to go. That is why Worldwide Cancer Research is so vital in finding new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. With the help of Curestarters like you, they can keep funding lifesaving research into any type of cancer, anywhere in the world.”



Click here to read Eilidh’s full story

Thank you from our chair


I would like to say a massive thanks to you, our Curestarter community whose continued generosity has allowed us to award £5.2 million towards 26 new research projects that could start the cancer cures of the future, today.

Our vision to end cancer by starting new cancer cures worldwide starts with you. And with you, we’re proud to stand for people with cancer, with our key objectives focused on ending their suffering and enhancing their quality of life by promoting, funding and supporting new strands of scientific research.

It is by funding research of this nature and promoting the publication of its findings that Worldwide Cancer Research seeks to accelerate progress in the understanding of cancer and finding new methods of prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Today we fund around 20 to 25 early-stage cancer research projects a year (typically £4m to £5m). But we have big ambitions. And the charity has plans for significant growth with the ambition to fund £20m of new research, or 100 new research projects, annually in 10 years’ time. Achieving this level of research funding is underpinned by a fundraising strategy centred on major growth and diversification in fundraising income.

In 2021, the charity successfully delivered significant growth (11%) in fundraising income for the first time in recent years despite the challenging fundraising environment. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we continued the focus from 2020 on stewardship and retention of existing supporters, along with a strong focus on cost control.

“It’s safe to say there are exciting times ahead for Worldwide Cancer Research”

The ‘Curestarter’ fundraising strategy is now being delivered and focuses on modernisation and diversification through community building. We’re seeking to build a community of Curestarters by improving and modernising our individual giving programme via digital transformation and widening our philanthropic reach through trusts and major donors.

To facilitate this, we plan to invest in fundraising over the coming years to build our Curestarter community. Alongside this, we will fund research at a higher level, gradually stepping towards the £20m research funding target as we grow fundraising income.

It’s safe to say there are exciting times ahead for Worldwide Cancer Research, and I know that with your support, we will keep starting new cancer cures that will one day end cancer.

Yours sincerely,

David Sole OBE
Chair of the Board of Trustees

What we started in 2021

Gaining knowledge and making breakthroughs - our 2021 impact

From breakthroughs in leukaemia treatment and improving our knowledge of bowel cancer, our researchers have been hard at work bringing discovery research to life and working towards new cancer cures around the world.

New research projects

We funded 16 innovative new projects worth £3.7m despite a downturn in fundraising in 2020.
These 16 new projects are located in 15 cities across 8 countries around the world.
Projects covered 10 different cancer types, and 3 projects focused on uncovering new knowledge of how cancer works that will help understand all types of cancer.

Outputs and breakthroughs

At least 100 new scientific advances were published in 2021 thanks to research funded by our Curestarter community. There were a number of key breakthroughs to add to this advanced knowledge of cancer and how it works:

Our scientists in Spain uncovered how a fat molecule found in palm oil.
Researchers in Italy discovered a new way to treat acute leukaemia by engineering immune cells taken from healthy donors and using them to target and destroy blood cancer cells.
Our scientists in London developed a new way to deliver drugs that can shut down cancer-promoting mutations in neuroblastoma.
Researchers in the Netherlands discovered new knowledge of how bowel cancer develops and found a new way to prevent it, using a repurposed psychiatric drug.

Understanding sarcoma – a rare tissue cancer

Connecting learnings from two types of sarcoma

Sarcomas are tumours that appear in connective tissues, such as bone, cartilage or fat. Because sarcomas are so rare (they represent only 1% of all cancers), they have been understudied for years and so we don’t know too much about how they work.

A specific type of sarcoma, called Ewing’s sarcoma, can be diagnosed by checking for a mutation that leads to the fusion of two genes. Scientists recently learnt that this mutation can cause Ewing’s sarcoma by stopping our cells’ ability to repair DNA damage.

Thanks to funding from Worldwide Cancer Research, Professor Kevin Hiom and his team at the University of Dundee in Scotland are now investigating whether a different form of sarcoma, called myxoid liposarcoma, is caused in a similar way to Ewing’s sarcoma.

Kevin hopes this research will lead to new treatments for myxoid liposarcoma and possibly for other cancers that have similar fusion gene mutations, including certain blood cancers.

did it

Curestarting – funding cures of the future

How our Curestarter community raised grant funding in 2021

When it comes to raising funds for cutting edge, discovery research, our Curestarter community is second to none.

As the charity that will end cancer by starting cancer cures, we are lucky to have a dedicated group of supporters who form our Curestarter community. They are bonded by a shared spirit – to find new ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer by funding innovative, discovery cancer research all over the world.

We recognise that no two people are the same, and so it goes for the contributions of our Curestarters. From sharing or liking a social media post, telling friends about our cause, running a marathon, holding a bake sale or giving a special one-off gift or a monthly donation. Every Curestarter has the potential to move us towards the day that no life is cut short by cancer by doing what works best for them.

In 2021, our Curestarters achieved something special – raising enough money to give the charity its first year on year fundraising growth since 2014. We invested £3m in fundraising, empowering our Curestarter community to support us more easily and raise awareness of Worldwide Cancer Research and the discovery research we fund. Having stood by our cause through the pandemic, our community was more generous than ever – with fundraising income of £10.4m – an 11% increase on 2020.

Historically the charity’s key fundraising streams have been monthly direct debits and our monthly prize draw programme – and this was no different in 2021. However, some new ways of giving proved to be successful for our Curestarters, allowing them the opportunity to give in a way that best suits their needs. More Curestarters than ever before gave one-off special gifts, with more supporters inspired by our website and Curestarter content.

We also received some exceptional gifts in wills, with people choosing to make their legacy starting the cures of the future, in the hope of helping future generations avoid the pain suffering caused by cancer.

To every Curestarter, we are so grateful for the progress made in 2021, and we look forward to growing research funding even further in 2022.

Starting in memory of a much-loved brother

Curestarter Richard raised vital funds in memory of his brother Tim

Ten years ago, aged just 42, Richard’s brother Tim was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Unfortunately for Tim, like many of those diagnosed with cancer, the tumour was discovered too late – the cancer had already spread to other parts of his body. Tragically, Tim passed away soon after – Richard and his family were devasted to lose someone so loved, so young.

That’s why, ten years on, Richard decided to mark the anniversary of his big brother Tim’s passing by taking on a challenge bigger than he’d taken on before – running the 26.2 mile London marathon.

His first time running the world-famous race, Richard was overwhelmed by the response and support for his endeavour – raising more than £3000 for life-saving discovery research and starting cancer cures in memory of his brother.

“I only ran my first 10k in 2018, and I ran a couple of half marathons as a build up to the main event. It was tough – a real baptism of fire.

I’m now back in training for my next event, and I look forward to getting my tutu and scrum hat out again! Every step I run is for my brother, so raising funds for an amazing charity like Worldwide Cancer Research feels like a great way to honour his memory.

Being able to contribute to the important and life-changing research the charity funds across the world is just incredible.”


Starting to look ahead to 2022-23

Our CEO focuses on the long term

Inspiration is never hard to find at Worldwide Cancer Research. We are continually compelled by the tenacity of our research scientists, who explore new ideas to start cancer cures. Weare encouraged by the efforts of our Curestarter community, without whom we would have been unable to fund £5.2m of vital, discovery research in 2021.

But, perhaps most importantly, we are moved by the determination of people with cancer and their families in the face of the most challenging of circumstances.

This is why, despite a strong year for the charity, we remain focused on our long-term goals– to fund more quality discovery research than ever before and bring forward the day that no life is cut short by cancer.

The challenges facing cancer research continue, and discovery research remains perilously under-funded – with a 25% decrease in financial backing in recent years. This is a huge drop in funding for a type of research we know plays a vital role in the journey to new cures.

It is our commitment to discovery research that makes us different, and what makes our Curestarters unique. We fund only this type of research because we understand its importance in starting new cancer cures. We know that without investing in science at this stage, we simply can’t move research onto the translational or clinical stages – leading to new tests or treatments for cancer in hospitals– where ultimately, they save lives.

That’s why, in 2022, we will continue our quest to increase the quality and quantity of discovery research funded every year. We will invest in more bold ideas from scientists around the globe by seeking to partner with other research funders, and by raising as much voluntary income as possible. This can only be made possible by supporting our Curestarter community in their efforts, not only to raise funds, but to raise awareness of our charity and the importance of discovery research.

In 2022 we will undertake a strategic review to identify any areas we feel we can maximise to improve our impact for people with cancer, and their families. Because at Worldwide Cancer Research, we know all too well the pain and suffering caused by this cruel disease – and are dedicated to ending it, for good.

Dr Helen Rippon
Chief Executive


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