How your donations are used to start cancer cures

19th April 2022

One question you may have about our funding is where does your donation go once it reaches the lab? How does your money help start new cancer cures? Our short guide will take you behind the scenes of Worldwide Cancer Research so you can see how we make the most of your donations.

Investing wisely

Every year we ask scientists from all over the world to submit their new ideas in cancer research that need funding. Each one of these ideas could be the starting point for a new cancer cure.

But we want to make sure we are getting the most out of the donations from our Curestarter community. One way we do this is by asking researchers to submit with their project proposal a detailed breakdown of the finances behind their idea. This way we can make sure and that every penny you raise helps to fund the next big breakthrough in cancer research.

The average project we fund costs around £200,000 and lasts for 3 years. Here’s a breakdown of what funding researchers can apply for within a project.

How your donations are used to fund research

Scientist staff costs

Discovery cancer research involves skills and expertise in a wide range of lab techniques. Most projects we fund include a talented scientist, usually with a PhD, who conducts the day-to-day experiments that make the project a success. Part of your donation will go towards paying the salary of that scientist. Without those scientists working in the lab, there would be no progress towards new cancer cures.

Lab consumables

Some of your donation will help scientists to purchase lab consumables. This is a technical term for routine, non-reusable lab kit that scientists are using every day. They are vital for carrying out basic tasks that are the foundation for making new discoveries in the lab. Consumables include things like the plastic dishes and flasks used to grow cancer cells, glassware for mixing and preparing solutions, and ingredients for special reagents used by our scientists in experiments. In most cases, researchers are allowed to request up to £15,000 per year for consumables and they have to breakdown what they plan to spend the money on.

Animal research

Researchers applying to us for funding can also apply for costs associated with any animal research that is essential for the success of a project. For example, researchers may need to study how a drug stops the growth of a tumour in a mouse so that they can provide the evidence needed to take that drug into clinical trials where it can benefit cancer patients. Any use of animals in research must comply with our strict animal research policy.

Lab equipment

In rare cases, some of your donation may go towards equipment costs on a project. This refers to large pieces of lab equipment, such as specialist machines, that are needed to complete an experiment.

Specialist research costs

A significant amount of your donation helps pay for other specialist costs on a project. For example, scientists may need to access specialist people and equipment at their research institute to complete complex experiments. This could include conducting genetic sequencing of tumour samples donated by cancer patients or using state-of-the-art microscopes to study cancer cells in detail.


A small portion of your donation may also be used to pay for travel costs to allow scientists to visit scientific conferences or collaborators involved with their project. Here, they can present their findings, discuss their ongoing Worldwide Cancer Research project, and form valuable new collaborations that will ultimately drive forward discovery. Travel costs are rigorously reviewed and must be fully justified by the researcher.

What we don’t pay for

We do not pay for overheads such as the physical lab space or energy costs associated with running the lab – we expect these to be be covered by the institute. This way all the funds you provide go on research and the expertise needed to make the project a success.

Smart finance saves money

We pride ourselves on having a rigorous internal financial process, which means we can make sure researchers are spending your donations only on the things they need to complete their project.

One way we do this is to pay our researchers quarterly in arrears. This means that the researchers must submit a claim to us for their actual expenditure and our internal team check the finances against what they have requested in their application. Paying in arrears, rather than a lump sum up front, also means that if a researcher doesn’t spend as much as they predicted to complete their project, we effectively claim that money back. For example, from projects that ended in 2021, we were able to claim back over £130,000 – money we will reinvest back into research.

By being smart with our finances, we make sure to make the most of every penny generously donated by our Curestarter community. This ultimately translates into more research being funded and the start of more new cancer cures of the future.

Further reading

Cancer explained

What do the experts think is the future of cancer research?

The experts give their views on hot topics in cancer: Rare cancers, stopping the spread of cancer, personalised medicine and immunotherapy.

03 September 2021


What makes us different from other cancer charities?

There are hundreds of cancer charities in the UK, so why should you choose to support us? Our Chief Executive Dr Helen Rippon explains.

28 June 2021


How our researchers make the most of your donations to start new cancer cures

There are hundreds of cancer charities in the UK and many of them fund research. So, what is it that makes Worldwide Cancer Research different?

21 June 2021


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