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Our new strategy to make discoveries, drive progress, and bring hope

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK
by Michelle Mitchell | Opinion

17 March 2022

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As the world stands on the brink of a revolution in its understanding of cancer – with new technologies and growing global networks transforming what’s possible – we want to go further and faster than ever before.

In our 20th anniversary year, it’s been inspiring to hear the real-life accounts of people who our work has benefited, and to read stories of our impact, such as how we have played a role in developing over 50 cancer drugs in use today. However, for every good news story, we know there are so many others who suffer unnecessarily because of cancer.

1 in 2 of us will get cancer in our lifetime. The number of cases is rising, treatments can take a huge toll on patients, and there are stark inequalities in who cancer affects most harshly. For all the progress in survival, too many lives are still lost to this disease.

We need to accelerate progress in beating cancer, and we stand at a moment of huge opportunity. Just a few years ago, the tools that our researchers have at their disposal were unimaginable, and the power of global, multidisciplinary collaboration is incredible, but yet to be fully realised.

That’s why this is the right time for us to reshape our approach with the launch of our new strategy, ‘Making discoveries, Driving progress, Bringing hope’, which we published today.

It lays out how we intend to make the most of these opportunities in the years ahead, so we can bring about a world where everyone lives longer, better lives, free from the fear of cancer. Our research strategy, which is being published at the same time, sets out our scientific priorities and how we will work with our world-class research community to achieve this.

We know that it is unlikely we will ever find a single cure for cancer. But we also know that it can be beaten – and that discovery is the key. Beating cancer means funding brilliant researchers to make more discoveries, and harnessing those discoveries to drive progress in prevention, tests and treatments.

In some cases, this might mean effectively eliminating certain cancers, as we can now hope to do with cervical cancer. For others, it will mean preventing them from developing, or diagnosing them at the earliest stage so they can be successfully treated.

Saving lives has always been at the core of our mission, but beating cancer must mean more than just improving survival. We also need to go further in developing kinder, less toxic and more targeted treatments, to reduce the impact of cancer on people’s day to day lives and improve their quality of life.

Beating cancer must mean beating it for everyone. That’s why our strategy sets out how we will strive to ensure everyone shares in progress equally – regardless of who they are, where they’re from or what type of cancer they have.

Beating cancer is a huge challenge. We’re committing to spending £1.5bn on research over the next five years, but beating cancer will take more than that. That’s why we’ll inspire millions of people in the UK and around the world to join with us, and work organisations and individuals around the world who share our mission. Together, we can seize this moment, bringing hope to millions and creating a future where everybody lives longer, better lives, free from the fear of cancer.

Michelle Mitchell is Cancer Research UK’s chief executive


Ahmad, A., Ormiston-Smith, N. & Sasieni, P. Trends in the lifetime risk of developing cancer in Great Britain: comparison of risk for those born from 1930 to 1960. Br J Cancer 112, 943–947 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/bjc.2014.606