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2019/20 in review: Celebrating our pre-pandemic successes

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by Cancer Research UK | Philanthropy and partnerships

19 August 2020

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Two scientists working in the lab

Although the past few months have turned all our lives upside down, and we at Cancer Research UK now face some huge challenges as we adjust to our changed world, the year that led up to the COVID-19 crisis was one that deserves some celebration. Here we pick out the highlights from our recently published Annual Report & Accounts.

In 2019/20, we raised £656m. Some of this was from legacies (£184m), our trading activities (£108m) and events (£48m), all of which we expect to take a hit this year due to the pandemic. There was also £7m from our portfolio of investments and £118m from royalties and grants, including our share of sales from innovations developed from our research. But the rest, a whopping £191m, is entirely thanks to our incredible supporters.

Record-breaking philanthropy

This year, we raised £21m from philanthropic gifts of £10,000 or more. That’s a 50% increase on the previous year and our best-ever year for philanthropic income. This includes six £1m+ gift commitments from generous donors who have supported our activities at the Francis Crick Institute, in Manchester, and across the UK and globally.

In the report (page 41), we meet Brett Warburton, whose family business, the eponymous bakery brand, has raised over £2m for life-saving cancer research since 2015 through employee fundraising and donations from the family. “Philanthropy is more than just donations,” he says. “It’s about effectively investing time, money and support to causes in a way that will create true value and be sustainable over time.” You can also read an interview with Brett on our blog.

Promising progress

We committed £511m of the valuable income we received last year towards life-saving cancer research projects (£468m) and our vital information and influencing work (£42m).

Our portfolio of cancer research projects cover every aspect of cancer research and every step of the cancer journey, from bench to bedside, and from prevention to diagnosis and treatment. Some of the progress you can read about includes funding the first three teams through our Brain Tumour Awards, launching our national radiotherapy research network RadNet, and seeing 31 junior doctors join our new Clinical Academic Training Programme, which is transforming training for medical students and qualified doctors who want to engage in research alongside treating their patients, bringing their hospital experience to the lab and vice versa.

We also launched our International Alliance for Cancer Early Detection (ACED), which connects three UK centres of excellence in Cambridge, London and Manchester with world-class scientists in the US at the Canary Center at Stanford University and Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University. The ACED scientists and researchers will collaborate globally on radical new strategies and technologies to detect cancer at its earliest stage, when treatment is more likely to be effective.

The remaining £193m was invested in raising donated income, running our shops and other trading activity and managing our investments. This means that for every pound we received, we made 83p available to beat cancer.

Can’t ignore COVID

You’ll also find in the pages of the report a spotlight on our response as a charity to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although this activity falls outside the 2019/20 financial year, you can read some inspiring stories about how our multitalented research community have used their skills and expertise to stand up to the virus. For example, Dr Alan Parker and his team at Cardiff University have been working to see if the viruses they engineer to target cancer cells could be developed into prototype vaccines for coronavirus. Meanwhile, hits to our website have soared and our nurses’ helpline has never been busier.

Fortunately, clinical trials are now restarting and our research community are slowly returning to their life-saving work to beat cancer. But we’re incredibly proud of the resilience, resourcefulness and altruism they have shown over the challenging lockdown months.

Read our Annual Report & Accounts 2019/20

By Samantha Gharial, philanthropy copywriter

Find out more about philanthropy at Cancer Research UK