We've made more progress in 2011

2011 has been another busy year for us.

As regular blog readers will know, our scientists, doctors and nurses across the UK have been working hard to understand cancer, and find more effective ways to prevent, diagnose and treat it.

Let’s take a look back at some of the highlights of a productive year:

January: We launch the Year of Radiotherapy, aiming to raise awareness about this vital treatment and call on the Government to ensure that services are world class.

February: Our researchers discover new gene signatures involved in prostate cancer and track down the first new ‘accelerator’ gene for breast cancer to be found for five years.

March: Our scientists in London unravel a crucial link between inflammation and cancer, while others show that bowel cancer cells with messed-up DNA are more likely to be resistant to treatment.

April: New laws banning under-18s from using sunbeds come into effect – our supporters were vital in helping us campaign for this life-saving legislation.

May: Our researchers in Sheffield show how special immune cells can switch to the ‘dark side’, protecting tumours from the effects of anti-cancer drugs.

June: Our scientists in Leeds develop a new ‘DNA vaccine’ technique, which could be developed into a powerful treatment for cancer in the future. And we celebrate the launch of the Francis Crick Institute, which we are funding in partnership with the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council and three universities in London. When it opens in 2015, it will be the largest research institute in Europe under one roof.

July: An exciting new clinical trial launches, aiming to detect the early signs of oesophageal cancer using a ‘sponge on a string’. We also announce that we are taking part in the International Cancer Genome Consortium – a multi-million pound international project aiming to read the entire DNA sequence of individual cancers taken from hundreds of patients.

August: Scientists at our Beatson Institute in Glasgow find a way to shut off the ‘backup’ energy generator in kidney cancer cells, which could pave the way for new treatments for the disease. Meanwhile, Cancer Research UK-funded scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research discover a new gene involved in hereditary ovarian cancer.

September: Researchers discover how skin cells can sprout tiny ‘legs’ and start moving, which may help to explain why melanoma spreads and provide clues for new treatments. And abiraterone (Zytiga), a new drug for advanced prostate cancer that we helped to develop, is licensed in Europe, although NICE is yet to decide whether it will be available on the NHS.

October: Our scientists in Cambridge discover a potential new drug for treating Mixed Lineage Leukaemia (MLL), the most common type of leukaemia in babies under two. And we say goodbye – and good riddance – to tobacco vending machines, as they are banned – a move that thousands of our supporters helped us to campaign for.

November: The first patients are recruited for our Stratified Medicine Programme, aiming to find out how genetic testing can help to improve treatment for people with cancer. And we join forces with scientists around the world to launch the Rare Cancers Initiative, driving urgently-needed research into rare – and often overlooked – forms of the disease.

December: To mark Children’s Cancer awareness month and our annual Little Stars awards, we release figures showing that around 5,600 survivors owe their lives to improvements in cancer treatment since the 1970s – our research has been at the heart of that progress. And, in perhaps our biggest story of the year, we publish a report – and a detailed graphic – showing the degree to which different lifestyle factors affect cancer risk.

Here’s to 2012 – a year in which we hope to make even more progress in beating cancer.