Selfies raise 8 million

Thank you! You're all amazing

Today you might have seen the fantastic news that the social media trend that started out as #nomakeupselfie, with women posting pictures of themselves without makeup, has raised a staggering £8 million towards our lifesaving research.

We didn’t start the trend, but we want to say a massive THANK YOU! to each and every one of you who got involved and donated to our work alongside your photo – all you gorgeous bare-faced women, all you men who plastered on the slap, the with-makeup selfies from the ladies who don’t normally wear it, all the kids and pets who joined in too, the guys with their socks and everyone else. You’re all amazing, and we can’t thank you enough.

As with any high-profile fundraising campaign – especially one we didn’t expect or plan for – people have had some questions, which we’d like to answer here.

How much have you raised?

So far we have raised over £8 million from text and online donations. This figure is still rising, and we’ll update this post as we know more.

Where is the money going?

It’s going towards funding our clinical trials research – these are studies involving people, testing kinder and more effective treatments and tests for cancer. So far this will enable us to completely fund 10 clinical trials, some of which we were previously unable to fully fund or couldn’t afford to fund at all. Nine of these are trials testing new treatments for cancer, and the other is collecting and analysing tumour samples from patients. Any remaining money will be put towards more of our research.

Which trials is it funding?

These trials will look at new treatments for sarcoma, acute myeloid leukaemia, neuroblastoma, liver, head and neck, breast, prostate, bladder and oesophageal cancers. The trials cover a range of treatment approaches including chemotherapy, hormone therapy and radiotherapy, as well as sample collection for a study looking at how a person’s genetic makeup affects their response to radiotherapy.

£8 million sounds like a lot of money for just 10 trials. Why do they cost so much?

Because these donations have been unexpected, we’re still working out the best way to spend all the money. So far we know that we can definitely support these 10 trials, but it’s likely that we will be able to support a lot more vital research from this money too. We can’t magic research projects out of the air overnight, but we’ll be doing our best to spend it in a way that will bring the most benefits to cancer patients.

Clinical trials run over many years and can involve hundreds of patients. The costs include paying to run the trial and collect data from patients, as well as analysing it to see if the new treatment works. The costs per year can range from around £30,000 per year to £100,000 depending on the particular study and the longer a trial runs, the higher the costs. The money raised from the selfies will support these 10 trials over their entire duration. The shortest of the trials is two years while the longest is 10, and in total it all adds up to more than 50 years of research time.

Why isn’t it going towards the cancer that matters to me?

There are hundreds of different types of cancer, and our work spans all of them. These 10 trials are just a handful of the hundreds of clinical studies that we are funding across the UK, testing kinder and more effective treatments and tests for many forms of the disease.

We’re also spending millions on pounds on fundamental research into the biological ‘nuts and bolts’ of cancer – ranging from specific types to more general biology – which will lead to new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat many different cancers in the future. You can find out more about the wide range of research we fund on our website. This blog post – “What about my type of cancer?” – is also worth a read.

Is it all going towards animal research?

No. As we said above, much of the money raised through this campaign has been earmarked for clinical trials. Clinical trials are medical research studies involving people, and do not involve animals. Clinical trials test new treatments, ways to reduce side effects of treatment and to control symptoms. They may also investigate the causes of cancer and new ways of preventing, diagnosing or screening for cancer. You can find out more about clinical trials on our website or in our research leaflet (pdf).

Some of our other research does involve animals, but only where it is unavoidable. At Cancer Research UK, research using animals is part of our efforts to beat cancer. For a start, it’s a legal requirement in this country that all new drugs (not just cancer drugs) are tested in animals before they’re given to patients, to make sure that they’re safe to use.

A great deal of our research doesn’t involve animals at all. Wherever it’s possible our researchers rely on other methods, including studying cancer cells grown in the lab, or even yeast and bacteria. But sometimes there is no other way to get the information needed to make progress against this terrible disease. You can find out more about how animal research is helping us to beat cancer in our previous post.

Why aren’t you doing trials of cannabis?

We are. We support the only two UK clinical trials of cannabinoids for treating cancer, through our national network of Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres, funded by Cancer Research UK and the devolved Departments of Health. One is an early-stage trial testing a synthetic cannabinoid called dexanabinol for people with advanced cancer, the other is an early-stage trial testing a drug called Sativex (an extract from cannabis plants) for people with glioblastoma multiforme brain tumours.

Our funding committees have previously received other applications from researchers who want to investigate cannabinoids that have failed to reach our high standards for funding. If we receive future proposals that do meet these stringent requirements, then there is no reason why they would not be funded – assuming we have the money available to do so.

For more information about the real scientific evidence around cannabis, cannabinoids and cancer, please take a look at our extensive blog post. And for those of you wondering about the “Canadian cancer cure that everyone is ignoring” (an interesting but unproven drug called DCA), read our post on that topic too.

Is it all going to pay your salaries?

No. This money has been earmarked for clinical trials, which will include some salaries for the researchers running and analysing the trial.

And on a more general note, we’ve heard some wild figures about the percentage of donations that go towards our life-saving research. The fact is that at least 80p in every pound we raise (80 per cent) is spent directly on research – a figure that compares well to most other charities in the UK. The remainder is used to help us raise more funds for more research. We are an independent charity and receive no government funding for our research.

Is it all going to pay your shareholders?

No. We are a registered charity – we don’t have shareholders, and nobody receives dividends. Our Annual Report and Accounts are publicly available online.

Why don’t you fund cancer prevention or research natural cures?

We do. We fund millions of pounds of research aimed at understanding the causes of cancer and how to prevent it. You can read highlights of some of these projects on our website. We’re also funding research into interesting naturally-occurring molecules – for example, we’re funding clinical trials of curcumin, a chemical found in the curry spice turmeric, for people with bowel cancer. And we’re running major trials of the off-patent drug aspirin, to see if it can help to prevent or treat cancer.

It’s all a conspiracy! Why are you hiding the cure?

We’re not. As we mention in our recent blog post on the top 10 cancer myths, here at Cancer Research UK we have seen loved ones and colleagues go through cancer. Many of them have survived. Many have not. To suggest that we are – collectively and individually – hiding ‘the cure’ is not only absurd, it’s offensive to the global community of dedicated scientists, to the staff and supporters of cancer research organisations such as Cancer Research UK and, most importantly, to cancer patients and their families.

Thanks to advances in research, long-term (10+ years) survival from cancer has doubled in the UK over the past 40 years, and death rates have fallen by 10 per cent over the past decade alone.

By definition, these figures relate to people treated at least 10 years ago. It’s likely that the patients being diagnosed and treated today have an even better chance of survival. Research works – we know it and can show it – and the work being done today will help to make an even bigger difference in the future.

Also, some people on social media have mentioned that royals never get cancer. This is simply untrue. Edward VII died of throat cancer, and George VI (the Queen’s father) had lung cancer and heart disease, due to smoking. Anyone can get cancer, whether pauper or prince, and although there are issues with availability of treatments around the UK – which our policy team are working hard to address – there is no ‘secret cure’ that is only available to the elite.

What about the people who texted the wrong charity?

We’re sorry that some people might have got confused about the right way to make their donation – the correct way to donate to us is to text the word “BEAT” or “beat” to 70099 (Ts and Cs here). As reported by the BBC, some donations went to the charity UNICEF, while other texts accidentally ended up enquiring about adopting polar bears. This has happened because several charities use the same text number, but with a different code-word.

UNICEF has told us that the donations they received in error will be given to Cancer Research UK – this was around £18,000. People who unintentionally donated to UNICEF have already been contacted to let them know the money is being transferred. If you have accidentally been sent a polar bear, please give it back to the World Wildlife Fund…