It’s been a busy year for us here at Cancer Research UK. We launched a brand new strategy that sets out our vision for the next few years, building on our work in 2014.
So here are just a handful of our biggest achievements from this year, focusing on our groundbreaking research and the key moments in our policy and campaigning work.
None of this would be possible without our amazing supporters. So we want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you, and wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy 2015.
- Our scientists in London found that some bowel cancer cells carry a ‘double dose’ of DNA, which may be linked to more aggressive forms of the disease. You can read an interview with one of the scientists behind the research here.
- We launched the LuDO trial testing a new type of radiotherapy for children with advanced neuroblastoma, one of the deadliest childhood cancers. And we followed the story of five childhood cancer survivors who are now taking on cancer in a different way – by pursuing medical careers.
- We worked hard in Northern Ireland to counter local resistance to legislation on the standardised packaging of cigarettes, helping ensure the Northern Ireland Assembly cleared the way for a Westminster vote on this vital health measure.
- We published our first major report on cancer surgery. You can read about the findings in this blog post, and we’re now using this information to plan our focus for surgery in the future.
- Citizen Scientists showed their support for Genes In Space – our world-first mobile phone game that helps our scientists analyse genetic data.
- We joined forces with the Royal Marsden hospital to provide GPs across the UK with new training opportunities to help them diagnose cancer earlier.
- What will radiotherapy look like in 10 years’ time? How will the technology have developed? How will patients receive their treatment? These are some of the questions we explored in our joint report on radiotherapy with NHS England.
- Half a century since our scientists discovered that the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) can cause certain types of cancer, we launched a clinical trial testing a vaccine as a potential treatment for one of these cancers, nasopharyngeal carcinoma.
- Our scientists at Leicester University pinpointed the shape of an abnormal protein responsible for some aggressive cases of lung cancer, which could predict who might benefit from particular treatments.
- Great news: a government-commissioned review confirmed the overwhelming evidence that standardised packaging of cigarettes will save lives. The Government reacted with a clear indication of support – the Public Health Minister, Jane Ellison, confirming they were “minded to proceed”.
- We launched our new research strategy, setting out our ambitious target that in 20 years’ time three in four people will survive cancer for at least 10 years. Our chief scientist called it “a big step towards putting us all out of jobs”.
- Our National Lung Matrix trial launched with the goal of matching lung cancer patients to treatments based on the genetics of their tumours.
- The genetic paths of two rare childhood diseases crossed following a study from our scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research in London.
- A protein called Fascin emerged as a potential key player in how pancreatic cancer develops and spreads. The researchers believe their findings could lead to new ways to treat pancreatic cancer in the future.
- Our scientists discovered a protein that acts as a molecular ‘brake’ and stops potentially cancer-causing DNA damage in cells.
- Following a crucial vote in the European Parliament in February, new EU rules set game-changing standards for protecting people from tobacco harm.
- For every £1 the public spends on cancer research, 40p is returned to the economy every year. That’s according to our report “Medical Research: What’s It Worth?” which is helping us make a convincing case for continued Government investment in medical research.
- In the first of two highlights linked to a new diagnostic tool for oesophageal cancer, our researchers in Cambridge discovered a genetic fault that may play an important role in how the disease develops (see November for the second highlight).
- Skin cancer researchers found that melanoma cells use certain proteins to help them change shape, allowing them to move around the body and spread. The next step is to test whether this ‘shape-shifting’ happens in people with melanoma and if we can exploit this for new treatments.
- Over 100 of our Campaigns Ambassadors made the journey to Westminster, sharing their stories with MPs as part of our 2014 Parliament Day. Read about their day here.
- New research from Manchester showed that slow moving melanoma cells ‘piggy-back’ onto faster ones, helping them spread.
- Scientists at Barts Cancer Institute in London discovered that a molecule in tumour blood vessels helps cancer cells become resistant to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. This exciting research suggests that switching off the protein could help make these treatments more effective.
- We announced a major investment into new trials looking at an advanced form of radiotherapy. And we were delighted that the Government followed up on our investment with a £6m pledge to support these trials in the NHS.
- Can aspirin prevent cancer? New evidence emerged on this long-running question – but it’s still not clear who should take the drug, at what dose and for how long.
- Researchers from Manchester discovered new information about the rare form of melanoma that killed Bob Marley.
- We reported the good news that thanks to research, death rates for breast, bowel, lung and prostate cancer combined have fallen by almost 30 per cent in the last 20 years.
- With the next General Election on the horizon, this year’s party conference season was a big deal. We visited the Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem events to talk to MPs and MP hopefuls about what we think should be top of the next Government’s agenda.
- We launched a report: “Measuring up? The health of NHS cancer services,” that backs our calls for more investment in cancer services.
- And another important report we commissioned found that diagnosing cancer earlier would save lives, and save the NHS money.
- Keeping the political wheels moving ahead of the General Election, we launched our Cross Cancer Out campaign, urging candidates from all political parties to commit to making NHS cancer services the best in the world. At the time of writing, 4,277 supporters have backed the campaign – and we hope that many more will follow.
- Our scientists in Glasgow discovered that melanoma cells use a chemical ‘breadcrumb trail’ to spread around the body. Understanding how melanoma cells follow this trail will bring researchers closer to finding new treatments for this disease.
- Researchers in London discovered that lung cancer can stay hidden in patients for up to 20 years. These findings will help researchers understand how lung cancer develops, how to diagnose the disease earlier and may lead to the development of new treatments.
- Early clinical trial results of a new test called Cytosponge showed it’s just as good as the current endoscopy test at spotting a condition that can go on to become oesophageal cancer. This is great news as Cytosponge is cheaper and more comfortable for patients than endoscopy.
- We were back in Liverpool for the 10th National Cancer Research Institute cancer conference. Catch up on what was discussed by reading our highlights from day one, day two, day three and day four.
- In an important discovery, we found that DNA-reading technology can sometime miss or skip bits of the genetic code, which may contain important information about new cancer–causing faults. Our scientists are tracking down these missing pages in cancer’s story.
- We got tough on tobacco industry tactics with a hard-hitting campaign that’s engaging young people across the UK. #SmokeThis is the first time we have – with your help – addressed the tobacco industry directly…and we’re delighted with the results so far.
- Personal data in research saves lives, yet the value of this data – and patients’ willingness to share it – is getting lost in discussions on the proposed EU Data Protection Regulation. Together with several organisations in Europe and the UK we launched a campaign to highlight the importance of personal data in research and what Europe stands to lose if its use is limited.
- Our scientists discovered that cancer cells use a particular set of molecular signals to help untangle their DNA before dividing. Identifying these signals offers a potential new weakness that could help kill the cancer cells.
- And finally, in an innovative approach combining imaging and genetic data, our researchers in Cambridge showed that an aggressive form of ovarian cancer could be driven by the cells having low levels of an important protein called PTEN.
Once again we want to thank each and every one of you for your amazing support. And to stay up to date, you can subscribe to this blog, either via its RSS feed, or by typing your email address into the box in the right hand column.
Aine McCarthy, science communications officer and Catherine Castledine, public affairs manager