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Why you need to ‘opt in’ to keep hearing from Cancer Research UK

by Ed Aspel | Analysis

30 June 2017

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Tomorrow is an important day for us. We will become an ‘opt in’ charity, meaning we’ll only contact supporters who have given specific permission for us to do so.

We’re doing this because we believe it’s the right thing to do. We want to communicate with our supporters in the way they want, and believe giving people a positive experience will help bring us closer to our ambitions as a charity.

Our move to opt in could lead to a short term dip in fundraising, which might affect the work we do in the future. But over time we believe this will shift, and we’ll see increased fundraising because we’ll only contact people who really want to hear from us.

In April last year we were one of the first charities to start the process of moving to opt in, asking all our new supporters to choose whether or not to receive marketing communications from us.

Tomorrow, this same process will apply to all our supporters, existing and new.

What will this mean?

In the past 12 months alone, thanks to our supporters, Cancer Research UK-funded scientists involved in the TRACERx lung cancer study found that a blood test could help predict if a patient’s cancer will come back after treatment earlier than scans. And results from the Cancer Research UK-supported ESPAC-4 clinical trial showed that giving pancreatic cancer patients who’ve had surgery two chemotherapy drugs instead of one greatly improves their chances of surviving for at least five years.

We also announced a £10 million investment in PRECISION-Panc, a study aiming to get pancreatic cancer patients on to clinical trials faster. And through our Grand Challenge awards, four international teams were awarded over £70 million to answer some of the biggest questions in cancer research. One of these projects was co-funded through a partnership with the Dutch Cancer Society and another by an anonymous overseas donor.

We were also delighted that after years of campaigning around radiotherapy, and raising awareness that patients are missing out on the treatment, NHS England announced a £130 million investment in new radiotherapy machines.

This progress has only been possible because of our supporters. And being able to contact them, especially by post or telephone, plays a big part in that.

Back in the 1970s, just 1 in 4 people with cancer survived for 10 years or more. Thanks to our supporters, and the brilliant scientists, doctors and nurses we fund across the UK, that figure has doubled so that 2 in 4 people now survive for at least 10 years.

The progress we’ve made is phenomenal, yet we still have a long way to go. With people living longer and increased awareness leading to more diagnoses, 1 in 2 people in the UK born after 1960 will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. To keep making progress against cancer we need to be able to keep supporting the best research.

What happens now?

Inevitably, as of tomorrow, we will be reaching fewer people in our communications, which means we could take a financial hit. It costs money to make our vital work happen and to fund it we have to ask for support and donations.

That’s why we’re making a plea to those who might not know, may have forgotten that this is happening, or haven’t yet had a chance to tell us their preferences.

If you want to continue to hear from Cancer Research UK about news of our research progress, appeals and ways you can support, let us know.

Right now, 30 seconds of your time and a quick box tick will help you keep up to date with our work in any way that you would like.

Visit our website for more information and to tell us how you want to hear about ways you can support us. If you change your mind about how you want to hear from us at any time just go to our online form at and update your preferences.

Ed Aspel, executive director of fundraising & marketing at Cancer Research UK