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Why we’re Standing Up To Cancer

by Nell Barrie | Analysis

17 October 2012

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Neil and her colleagues, Standing Up to Cancer

Nell and her colleagues, Standing Up to Cancer

Sometimes the battle of science against cancer can seem like a long, hard slog. But history proves that research can make a difference.

Cancer survival rates in the UK have doubled in the last 40 years, and research has been central to this progress. But when someone you love is affected by this terrible disease, it’s hard to feel hopeful.

Fear is a powerful emotion – but hope can be stronger. And there’s certainly reason to be hopeful. The fight against cancer is at a turning point, and we know we can beat it – if we join together.

This Friday, Cancer Research UK is collaborating with Channel 4 to bring you the UK’s first ever TV fundraising show for cancer research – Stand Up To Cancer. We’re doing this because we know new cures are within our grasp, and it’s time to seize the moment.

Cures are within our grasp

Right at this moment, around the world, researchers are  translating their understanding of what makes cancer tick into new treatments that could benefit millions worldwide.

For example, last year saw the emergence of the first new drugs for melanoma in over a decade. Treatments that harness the power of the body’s immune system are finally coming of age. And cutting-edge techniques have brought radiotherapy and surgery into the 21st century. Although we’re not talking about miracle cures, together these incremental advances are real breakthroughs.

But let’s be clear – there is still a huge amount of work to do.

Many cancers are still very hard to cure. Lung cancer is not only one of the UK’s most common cancers – it’s also the biggest killer. Many types of brain tumour are very hard to treat, and although we’ve made huge progress against children’s cancers, some forms are still defying our efforts to improve treatments.

It’s also really important to recognise that the idea of a single ‘cure for cancer’ isn’t accurate or realistic – there are over 200 types of cancer and they all need different treatments. That’s why we’ve always been extremely careful not to promise one ‘cure’ – because cancer isn’t just one disease.

But these challenges are what Stand Up To Cancer is all about. The campaign will accelerate research into new tests and treatments so that we can cure more people sooner. And there’s never been a better time to do this.

The fight is at a turning point

We’re confident that the future will bring cures for more people, because the past few decades of research have given us amazing insights into cancer. We now see the disease in a new light – advances in the ability to analyse DNA inside cancer cells mean that scientists worldwide are working to catalogue all the genetic faults that drive different types of cancer.

For example, this research is revealing the key faults that drive different types of breast cancer – and we now have the technology to begin to design treatments that act on those specific faults.

We have never before had such a detailed understanding of the key faults at the heart of cancer, or the technology to understand and turn the tables on this disease. That’s why we believe the fight is at a turning point.

We have knowledge and technology – but we need funding

Doctors and scientists across the world are learning more every day about how cancers grow and develop. Their discoveries are sparking ideas for new treatments that could save even more lives.

But developing new treatments is hugely expensive. It can cost hundreds of millions of pounds to take a discovery from the lab all the way through to a new treatment that can help people with cancer.

Stand Up To Cancer will fund clinical and translational research – bridging the gap between the lab and the patient, and turning discoveries into real benefits. But every new treatment, test and screening programme needs research and trials to make it happen, and we need more funds to pay for this vital work.

We have reached an era where innovation has outgrown funding. In a way this is good news – it means we have more opportunities to develop life-saving treatments or tests. But this research is also getting more expensive – as cancer treatment becomes more personalised, and patients need to be split into groups to be given different treatments, clinical trials are becoming larger and more complicated.

It’s an exciting time for cancer research – but we need to act now to take advantage of these opportunities, and turn breakthroughs in our labs into breakthroughs and cures for patients.

Research is the answer

Cancer Research UK is already funding groundbreaking clinical and translational research across the UK. Through our work with Stand Up To Cancer, we can bring benefits to more patients, sooner.

Research and trials have already saved thousands of lives – over 95 per cent of men with testicular cancer are now cured, and almost three quarters of children with cancer now survive, compared with around a quarter in the 1960s.

We’re pushing to change the odds for more patients, and boost survival for more types of cancer. We’re already tackling big challenges – developing new treatments for brain tumours, working with researchers across the world to set up trials for rare cancers, and leading groundbreaking research to help more children survive cancer.

Our research is giving us insights into every type of cancer – but we know we need to do more.

That’s why we’re Standing Up To Cancer. You can make a difference – Stand Up with us  on Friday, and help bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.


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