The first step is the most important

What is the ‘first step’?

To develop new life-saving treatments, scientists have to undertake discovery research - this is the first step in their journey.

We’re the only UK charity that exclusively funds pioneering discovery research. Because by helping scientists take the first step, we’re helping them find better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat all types of cancer. If we don’t, we know we will miss out on the life-saving treatments of the future.

Why is the first step the most important one?

We need it to uncover new ways to beat cancer.

Discovery research helps scientists uncover completely new ways to beat cancer. Since there are over 200 forms of cancer that affect 1 in 2 people, this is crucial.

Scientists can't develop new treatments without it.

Before pills, medicines and treatments can be made available to cancer patients, scientists have to uncover things about our bodies that were previously unknown. They do this during discovery research.

It will help us and our loved ones in future generations.

“It’s critical to fund discovery research, because innovation provides the ideas for new therapies in the long term, 10 or 20 years from now. If we don’t have innovation, we won’t get new therapies.” – Professor Paul Coffer

One researcher's first step led to the development of a drug that has so far treated 40,000 people with cancer. It has the potential to help thousands more.

Read the story

The first step that saved Sandy’s life.

When we funded Professor Steve Jackson, he described his idea as ‘blue-sky thinking’. Then he made a major breakthrough that led to the development of a drug called olaparib. It’s because of Professor Jackson’s first step that grandmother Sandy is alive and well today.

Watch the incredible moment where they met for the first time.


Will you help us kick-start tomorrow’s treatments?

1 in 2 people will now be diagnosed with cancer during their lives. For us, that's 1 in 2 too many. We know that bold research will cure cancer, but we can't do it without you.

This year we had 130 bold new research projects to choose between. But we were only able to fund 20 of them. That’s 110 projects, and 110 possible cures – lost.

We want to fund more. By giving more researchers more time in the lab, we know that we will also be giving more families more time together. That’s why we need your help.

Fund a scientist's first step

Behind the scenes of #TheFirstStep campaign

Watch members of Team Worldwide discuss who we are, what we do and why we need YOUR help in our quest to conquer cancer.

Learn more about our charity

What do you do?

We fund discovery research that helps identify new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. We are most interested in how novel and innovative an idea is – so we don’t fund bricks and mortar. We invest the funds we raise from our amazing supporters (who we call Team Worldwide) in giving researchers the time and tools to make their bold ideas a reality. Because we have faith that they can kickstart cancer cures and help us conquer cancer.

If you want to know more, visit our what we do page.

Your name is Worldwide Cancer Research, what do you mean by ‘Worldwide’?

We're a small charity (with less than 50 people in our team) and were' based in Edinburgh. However, we know that the answer to curing cancer could be found anywhere, so we fund research projects across the world. If you're interested, you can read more about research projects we've funded.

How long have you been a charity?

We were founded over 40 years ago. Tragically our founder died from cancer, so it’s our job to keep his legacy alive. That's why we're on a mission to kickstart cures and conquer cancer.

How are you different from other cancer charities?

Firstly, some cancer research charities focus only on one type of cancer, we fund research into all. Secondly, we only fund discovery research – which is the very first step in the cancer research process. Many other charities won’t fund this type of research but we know that it’s crucial to finding treatments so this is where we focus our funds. 

How do you decide which research projects to fund?

We have a really rigorous process. When scientists apply for funding it is reviewed by scientific peers and our Scientific Advisory Board who take several steps to decide which research projects should be funded. You can read more about how we decide which projects to fund here.