The impact of our cancer research

How our research saves lives

The research you help us fund has led to some incredible advances in how we prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. Since 1979, we have invested £200 million in 2,000 research projects in 35 countries around the world.

Thanks to research like ours, cancer survival rates have doubled in the UK since the 1970s. One in two people diagnosed with cancer can now expect to survive for 10 years or more after their diagnosis. But we are nowhere near done. In 2020, it was estimated that around the world 19.3 million people were diagnosed and 9.9 million people died from cancer. And with cancer set to become the worlds biggest killer by 2030, research is needed more than ever.

Brand new type of drug enters clinical trials

Scientist: Dr Laura Soucek

Impact: Developed a brand new cancer drug which in 2021 began being tested in patients on clinical trials. The drug, called omomyc, has the potential to treat a wide range of cancers.

How you helped: Your support allowed us to fund Dr Soucek in 2013 to test omomyc in the lab as a cancer treatment. This research was key to getting omomyc approved for clinical trials where it is being used to treat people with cancer.

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Clinical trials to stop bowel cancer coming back

Scientist: Professor Awen Gallimore

Impact: Started two bowel cancer clinical trials testing a new treatment approach that aims to destroy cancer cells that are left behind after surgery.

How you helped: Your support allowed us to fund Professor Gallimore to study the mechanisms that help cancer cells hide from the immune system. Her findings were key to setting up two clinical trials, which could lead to new life-saving treatments for people with bowel cancer.

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Preventing bowel cancer with a psychiatric drug

Scientist: Professor Louis Vermeulen

Impact: Discovered that lithium could stop cancer cells from developing in the gut and launched a clinical trial to test it in people with bowel cancer.

How you helped: Your support allowed us to fund Professor Vermeulen to understand why cancer cells are able to outcompete healthy cells in the gut. This research led directly to the launch of a clinical trial in the Netherlands to test a new way to prevent bowel cancer from developing.

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Thanks to research, cancer survival rates in the UK have doubled since the 1970s. One in two people diagnosed with cancer can now expect to survive for 10 years or more after their diagnosis. 

Help us start new cancer cures

Olaparib has already helped 40,000 people

Scientist: Professor Steve Jackson

Impact: Discovered and developed a drug called olaparib - the first approved drug known as a PARP inhibitor. Olaparib is approved around the world for treating certain types of ovarian and breast cancer. Clinical trials are ongoing to test olaparib in many other cancer types.

How you helped: Your support allowed us to fund Professor Jackson throughout the 1990s to understand the fundamental biology of how cells repair damage to DNA. Through this research, Professor Jackson uncovered a new mechanism which was the basis for developing olaparib.

 

 

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​Finding a new use for the diabetes drug metformin​​

Scientist: Professor Dario Alessi

Impact: Discovered that the diabetes drug metformin could be used to prevent and treat cancer. This research has sparked over 100 clinical trials worldwide to test metformin against cancer.

How you helped: In 2001, our community of Curestarters helped to fund a project that led Professor Alessi down an unexpected path to studying cancer risk in people with type 2 diabetes, with surprising results - if you have type 2 diabetes and you are treated with the drug metformin, you’re less likely to get cancer.

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Developing a new type of immunotherapy

Scientist: Dr John Maher

Impact: Developed a brand new type of immunotherapy. John's unique CAR T-cell therapy is currently in clinical trials for head and neck cancer where it is already saving lives.

How you helped: In 2008, our community of Curestarters helped to fund a Dr Maher to lay the groundwork for developing a "living drug" that uses the patient's own immune system to destroy cancer cells. Within 5 years, John had made a crucial discovery that allowed his team to develop a brand new type of immunotherapy. 

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Building mini-tumours in the lab

Scientist: Professor Hans Clevers

Impact: Developed a technique that scientists are now using to grow miniature tumours in the lab from a patient’s own cancer cells, opening the door to personalised medicine.

How you helped: In 1999, our supporters helped us to fund a project that led to the development of a new technique in the lab that allows scientists to grow “mini-tumours” from a patient’s own cancer cells. Growing these so-called cancer " organoids" has allowed scientists to study in detail the complex biology of tumours as well as demonstrating how organoids can be used to select the most appropriate treatment for someone with cancer - opening the door to personalised medicine.

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Diagnosing rare genetic diseases

Scientist: Professor Kevin Hiom

Impact: Discovered a gene which is now used to help accurately diagnose a rare genetic disease called Fanconi anemia - a disease that is linked to a number of developmental disabilities, as well as an increased likelihood of developing cancer

How you helped: Your support allowed us to fund Professor Hiom in 2004 to understand more about a fundamental process that keeps us healthy – DNA repair. Through this research, Professor Hiom discovered a new gene which was then found to be a genetic marker for Fanconi anemia. 

 

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Developing a pioneering new laser therapy

Scientist: Professor Stephen Bown

Impact: Propelled a laser therapy called photodynamic therapy from the lab into the clinic. Photodynamic therapy is now available as a treatment option for patients with some types of cancer.

How you helped: In the 1980s and early 1990s, we funded several projects led by Professor Stephen Bown, which allowed him to propel a laser therapy called photodynamic therapy from the lab into the clinic. Photodynamic therapy is now available as a treatment option for patients with some types of cancer. And it can even lead to a cure for some people if used early enough.

 

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Developing new blood cancer drugs

Scientist: Professor Mark Cragg

Impact: Contributed to the journey of a targeted cancer drug, which is now available as a treatment option for people with blood cancer.

How you helped: In 2004, we funded a project led by Professor Mark Cragg at the University of Southampton to further our understanding of how drugs could be used to target and destroy cancer cells. His research uncovered important information that contributed to the journey of a targeted cancer drug, which is now available as a treatment option for people with blood cancer.

 

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How dietary fats help cancer to spread around the body

Researchers in Spain have discovered how fats found in palm oil can help cancer spread and have developed new drugs to stop it from happening.

10 November 2021

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Going through what I did when I was so young was terrifying

Eilidh was just 14 when she was diagnosed with cancer for the first time. Now she's raising awareness for the need for more cancer research.

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I can’t bear the thought of losing yet another loved one to cancer

When Rachel was young, she was told that her auntie had been really ill with something called cancer. This is her story of how her family has been impacted by the disease.

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It's thanks to cancer research that I have a future to look forward to with my family

After losing his dad and both grandfathers to cancer, Jack was naturally terrified to be diagnosed.