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Opinion

The pandemic has had a massive impact on people with cancer - but there’s real hope for the future too.

4th February 2021

2020 turned all our lives upside down and it’s fair to say that 2021 didn’t get off to the best start either, with rising coronavirus cases, new restrictions and a seemingly unending stream of bad news all combining to make the winter months feel even more gloomy than usual. But there is hope for the future if we keep pulling together and pushing forwards.

Having cancer is always an incredibly difficult and scary experience, but the pandemic made circumstances even more daunting.

As a cancer research charity, we know that people with cancer were hit especially hard by the pandemic. Not just by the virus itself, but also by delayed diagnoses and treatments, halted clinical trials and an ever-increasing impact on research funding.  

The research journey is a long one and it can take up to 20 years for an idea to lead to new treatments. Any delays when it comes to starting new cancer cures could be the difference between life and death for many more people in years to come, and at the time of writing it was estimated that it would take 4.5 years for charity-funded medical research spend to recover to pre-pandemic levels.  

That’s a lot of ground to recover and so much more left to do. But at Worldwide Cancer Research, we really believe that we can get there. 

That's why we were delighted to announce that in 2021, thanks to the kindness and generosity of our supporters, we were able to offer funding to 16 innovative new projects in 15 cities around the world.  

Together we can all play a part in starting new cancer cures and saving lives - with that in mind, we can’t help but feel positive about the rest of the year – and beyond.  

Together we can all play a part in saving lives in the future. Will you become a Curestarter today?

We asked four people with their own unique views on the situation whether they agree that there’s lots to be positive about when it comes to the future of cancer research. Here’s what they had to say:

Dr Helen Rippon, Chief Executive at Worldwide Cancer Research:

This year more than ever we are paying tribute to the power of science. Research is our most powerful tool in the fight against coronavirus. And we’ve seen what happens when you mobilise thousands of people around the world to focus on a single goal.

Thanks to research, the timeline of development of new vaccines against coronavirus has been compressed from what would normally take years to just 10 months.

We want to harness that power for cancer. We won’t let cancer take the back seat to coronavirus. People who are affected by cancer are and always will be our priority. That’s why I am delighted that we can fund so many new lifesaving cancer research projects this year.

And it’s the kindness and generosity of our supporters that have made this happen and enabled the funding of these projects across the world. Projects that I know will be the start of new cancer cures.

Suzanne Davies, a mum-of-two living with cancer:

It’s been such a strange year, with the most normal things seeming so far out of reach. But it isn’t the first time that my family has felt so uncertain about the future. In 2014, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour the size of a golf ball and given just one year to live. My only hope was that someone could find a treatment that could give me more time.

Thanks to cancer research like the projects funded by Worldwide Cancer Research, I defied the odds and I’m still here with my family six years on. But sadly, part of my tumour could not be removed. Like many people with cancer, I live every day knowing it could be my last.

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. I shared my story in Worldwide Cancer Research’s Winter 2020 newsletter and I was overwhelmed by the response from supporters – their generosity meant the world to me and made me feel so positive about the year ahead.

I know that together we can end cancer – that's why I can’t wait to start new cancer cures this year with Worldwide Cancer Research.

Dr John Maher, a clinical immunologist and cancer researcher at King’s College London:

In these dark times there have certainly been some positives for cancer research. COVID-19 undoubtedly slowed scientific research all over the world in 2020, but science has not stopped completely. Scientists supported by Worldwide Cancer Research have contributed to several important breakthroughs in the last year – including a new cancer vaccine that could enter clinical trials within the next three years.

And while individual cancer diagnoses remain one of the scariest conversations that people can have with their doctor; it is worth stepping back to look at the bigger picture. Over the last 40 years, research has made astonishing progress and survival rates for many cancers have increased dramatically over the last decades.

Years of research means that nine out of ten people diagnosed with testicular cancer today will still be here a decade down the line. Three-quarters of children diagnosed with cancer now survive their disease beyond ten years – a huge improvement from about a third of children diagnosed with cancer 40 years ago.

This year people have woken up to the power of science and research to solve global problems. With 1 in 2 of us in the UK predicted to receive a cancer diagnosis during our lifetime, this is the time to use the momentum we have gained and use it to tackle the ‘big C’. Imagine what we could do for cancer patients with the same energy and determination that we are showing right now to fight COVID-19.

Dr Lynn Turner, Director of Research at Worldwide Cancer Research:

It has been a stressful and challenging year for us all. At Worldwide Cancer Research, we didn’t know how the pandemic was going to impact our ability to fund the world’s most innovative, exciting and creative cancer research. But the response from the research community has been inspiring. Even with everything that was happening, we were inundated with applications from scientists with new ideas on how to solve some of the most challenging problems about cancer.

And the response from our supporters has been just as incredible. It’s only because of their unwavering support that we were able to invest £3.2million in 16 pioneering new research projects this year.

This investment will give 16 scientists the time and tools they need to start new cancer cures. These innovative projects will help uncover ways to make immunotherapy work better, improve our understanding of rare cancers and lay the foundations for brand new cancer therapies that will save lives in the future.

We’re now looking ahead to what new research projects you can help us start next year. We will soon be asking scientists around the world to send us their ideas that will uncover new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. Sadly, we won't be able to fund all of them, but with the continued generosity of our supports we'll fund as many as possible and I'm really excited to see the potential cancer cures of the future.

Calling all Curestarters!

We know that there is hope for the future of cancer research thanks to the kindness and generosity of people like you. Will you make an extra special gift today to start new cures to end cancer?

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