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Our Research Strategy: looking forward

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by Cancer Research UK | Research Feature

19 June 2017

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In 2014, we set ourselves a challenging ambition: to accelerate progress and see 3 in 4 patients surviving cancer within 20 years. We published a strategy in support of this ambition, in which we set out our priorities and outlined the approaches we would take.

Three years later, we’re publishing our Research Strategy Progress Report, which sets out a high-level view of progress since the strategy’s launch. Here, Professors Peter Johnson, our chief clinician, and Karen Vousden, our chief scientist, take a look forward at how we will ensure that the CRUK community continues to stand at the forefront of cancer research worldwide.

“Our 2014 Research Strategy and priority areas remain key to supporting our vision of beating cancer sooner. We have seen a significant shift in focus and activity in many of these areas but there is more to do. We have identified areas in this report where there is a need to accelerate progress, for example early detection research, and will pursue them with increased focus in the immediate future.

In the three years since our Research Strategy was launched, we’ve seen the cancer landscape evolving at an extraordinary rate. There are new areas of promise opening up, drawing on advances in technology and our increasingly sophisticated understanding of biology. We are anticipating the revolution in smart medicine, where cancer treatment and care use new and precise diagnostic tools and an expanding range of treatments, many routinely personalised to each individual patient, working in redesigned primary and hospital healthcare.

We will remain flexible in our thinking and constantly on the lookout for new ideas, so we can identify the opportunities that will help us to reach our ambition of 3 in 4 patients surviving cancer by 2034. Immunotherapy continues to represent the greatest hope for cancer patients in decades, and our investment in tumour immunology will continue to expand, as we build our discovery science and translate novel ideas into potential treatments.

We continue to scan the research landscape for emerging trends with the potential to enhance our research and increase the impact of our funding. To take just two examples, the idea of exploiting the microbiome as a therapeutic intervention requires a substantial commitment to discovery research, to identify and understand the complex interactions between our bodies and the microbes we live with. And the rise of artificial intelligence, with its potential for data collection and analysis, early diagnosis and digital epidemiology, is likely to be one of the key opportunities to accelerate progress on many fronts.

How will we stay at the forefront? As always, we will remain closely linked to researchers in the UK and worldwide, to identify the best opportunities in cancer research and make sure we overcome the barriers. We will meet the challenges of rapidly translating discovery science into patient benefit by expanding and fine-tuning our network of centres, forging new collaborations with partner organisations, and bringing our researchers together in ways that will spark their creativity and originality.

Ground-breaking discoveries are often made at the interface of research disciplines. Through a variety of forums and funding approaches, we will continue to support a world-class research community, encourage team working and facilitate multidisciplinary collaboration. We’ll also continue to reach out to brilliant academics who haven’t previously thought about working in cancer, whose new insights could be invaluable to the field of cancer research.

Progress in cancer research comes from the brightest minds following their ideas, with funders like CRUK providing the support for them to do so, and the resources to turn those ideas into real benefits for patients. We must continue to develop the next generation of research talent, attract the very best people from all over the world, and strengthen UK cancer research by our investment. Together with everyone at CRUK, we look forward to working with researchers, partners, supporters and patients, as cancer increasingly becomes something we survive and live beyond.”

Prof Peter Johnson

Professor Peter Johnson
Chief Clinician

Professor Karen Vousden

Professor Karen Vousden
Chief Scientist