Our Research Strategy

Lifesaving discoveries start here

Our vision is to see a day where no life is cut short by cancer. We believe this can only be achieved through research.

Our mission is to kick-start the life-saving advances of the future by sowing the seeds of new discoveries today. We sit at the very start of the research journey, backing brand new ideas and supporting scientists to ask big, challenging, new questions about how cancer works.

We have a history of recognising innovative scientific ideas that have the chance to revolutionise cancer medicine. We were founded 40 years ago to support brand new avenues of research and allow scientists to take intellectual risks in exploring challenging new concepts and approaches. But we still have much to learn about cancer and that is what we continue to do to this day.

Our supporters give to us because they trust us as an organisation to deliver on our vision – however challenging that may be. Our Research Strategy sets out five strategic aims that guide the decisions we make towards achieving our vision.

But how will we do it? To help us fulfil the aims of our Research Strategy, and to ensure we realise our vision, we are looking for projects that meet the funding criteria below.

If you are a researcher looking for funding and would like to know more, please visit our For Researchers section of the website.

Our strategic aims

We will recognise and support daring and innovative science

We were founded on the principle that we would support research that seeks to answer the difficult questions in cancer biology. We are looking for innovative and truly novel ideas that have the potential to revolutionise our understanding of cancer and how to beat it.

We support discovery research (often called ‘basic and translational’) but do not prioritise any field of research within this; we welcome research that draws on epidemiological, behavioural and clinical data to provide a starting point for a new avenue of research. Multidisciplinary or discipline-hopping projects are encouraged where this helps stimulate innovation.

We will support any researcher with a brilliant idea, no matter where in the world they are based.

We will search for the answers to cancer that are desperately needed

To back the best ideas we can, we take an unbiased approach to funding and cast the net as widely as possible. One of our founding principles is to tackle the unmet need in cancer research. This means we are looking to support research that; explores brand new concepts and approaches; advances our understanding of cancer with the potential to open up new areas of cancer research; and establishes the first step in a research journey that could one day provide new and better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.

Our unbiased approach means that we will support research tackling any or all types of cancer, recognising that the greatest advances in cancer research often impact on more than one type and that cancer research should not be artificially limited. We encourage research into cancers that desperately need it – where outcomes for patients are low or haven’t seen significant improvement.

We will aim to invest at least £4 million in research each year

Our current (2020) annual investment in new research projects is around £4 million. This means that we can only fund some of the brilliant ideas put forward by researchers. Our goal is to grow this investment every year so that no brilliant idea is lost.

We will fund research that kick-starts clinical trials

Our focus on discovery research, and helping scientists to explore brand new concepts and approaches, sets in motion the journey towards clinical trials, and ultimately, new tests and treatments that impact the lives of people with cancer.  By kick-starting new avenues of research all over the world, we have already seeded medical advances that are saving lives today, and we will continue doing that for the future. Success from a Worldwide Cancer Research grant is the generation of the solid initial findings required to secure downstream funding from other sources.

We will help to increase cancer survival rates

In the 40 years since we started funding research, cancer survival rates have doubled. But nearly 10 million people still die every year from cancer. And while some cancers have seen dramatic improvements in survival, others have not. By funding the most innovative, exciting and daring research all over the world, we will ensure that survival rates continue to improve for all cancers.

Our funding criteria

Starting new ideas

We are looking for innovative research that takes intellectual risks. To us, that means helping researchers turn their bold idea into reality. And if there’s a risk of failure, we are willing to take it, if the rewards for success are worth it.

We want to see ideas which have the potential to start new lines of research and to tell us something new about cancer and how it could be prevented, diagnosed or treated.

We want to make the most of our supporters’ generous donations by funding standalone research projects. Projects should seek to answer a focused research question, not be an incremental piece of research tied to a larger programme grant.

Exciting and creative

We are looking for ideas that excite. The ones that make us go, “I wish I had thought of that”. We are looking for proposals with a creative approach to answering fundamental questions that could change how we think about cancer. Often these are ideas that other funders may overlook.

Scientific quality

We want to see the most exciting and creative new ideas, but we are also responsible stewards of our supporters’ donations.  We need to see robust scientific reasoning and appropriate solid methodology to back it up. The aims of a project should be feasible with the time and resources requested, and with the expertise of the research team.

Transformative impact

We support blue-sky thinking in research and want to direct funding towards projects that could transform an area of cancer research or one day have a major impact on the lives of people with cancer. While impact on cancer patients is a priority for us and our supporters, we recognise that important discoveries take time to bear fruit and that it may be many years before the research leads to lives saved or improved.


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