Funding for cancer research by National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Partners has increased by 62 per cent in the 10 years up to 2011 and now amounts to over £521 million a year. But they warn that this rise has levelled off in recent years due to the austere economic times.
“It’s vital for cancer patients that investment in cancer research remains a priority despite the tougher economic times” – Dr Karen Kennedy, director of the NCRI
The new analysis, published today at the NCRI Cancer Conference in Liverpool, highlights the significant investment in research to understand more about the biology of the disease and develop better treatments for cancer patients.
But there are still areas that need more funding. Amongst the sectors lagging behind are research into preventing cancer and studies to address the long term effects of cancer on survivors.
The greatest increase in research funding has been in new treatments. This, in part, reflects the growth of clinical research networks and Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres where the latest findings from the lab are brought through to benefit patients faster, the so-called ‘bench to bedside’ approach.
Over the last decade a consistent 60 per cent of cancer research funding has been spent on research that could apply to all types of cancer, with the remaining 40 per cent focused on research into particular cancers.
The strength of the NCRI Partnership is that it can identify the areas that need further investment. Specific NCRI initiatives have helped boost research investment into prevention and lung cancer – these have outstripped the average 60 per cent rise in spend.
Dr Karen Kennedy, director of the NCRI, said: “Since the start of the NCRI Cancer Research Database we have been able to see the strengths and weaknesses in investment in cancer research. This knowledge has enabled the NCRI to set up initiatives to address gaps and has raised awareness of the need for research in specific areas amongst the research community more generally. But it’s vital for cancer patients that investment in cancer research remains a priority despite the tougher economic times that funders must now operate under.”
Shirley Harrison, lay member of the NCRI Board and a breast cancer patient, said “We’ve seen great progress and improvements in cancer research thanks to the funding from NCRI Partners. The strength in funding of research in biology and treatment is encouraging. However, we need to ensure that other areas that are important to patients such as, prevention and survivorship research, are also appropriately addressed.”
Investment in brain, oesophageal and pancreatic cancers have also significantly increased over the decade. Highlighting the low level of research investment into these cancers, which also have poor outcomes for patients, has encouraged funders to consider new ways to boost work in these areas. Although the levels of investment are still relatively low, the change in funding is in the right direction.
Dr Harpal Kumar, chair of the NCRI and chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “It’s through research that we’re gaining the insights into cancer that will lead to better treatments for patients, so it’s great news that we’ve seen this huge increase in funding over the last ten years.
“But we still need to encourage funders and researchers to come together and take steps to improve the investment in research into cancers that still have a poor outlook such as brain and pancreatic cancers.”
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