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2021/22 in review: Charity looks to the future with ambitious new strategy

The Cancer Research UK logo
by Cancer Research UK | News

21 July 2022

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Scientist looking at petri dish

Cancer Research UK is ready to seize new opportunities following the publication of its Annual Report and Accounts 2021/22 today.

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive at Cancer Research UK, said: “This year has been a turning point for Cancer Research UK. We pulled together, seized new opportunities and set an ambitious new long-term direction for Cancer Research UK. None of this would’ve been possible without the extraordinary generosity and commitment of our supporters, as well as the tireless work of our staff, volunteers, partners and cancer patients.”

Renewing our focus

This year we laid out our vision for the future with the launch of our new organisational strategy: Making Discoveries, Driving Progress, Bringing Hope.

The strategy renews our focus on making transformative and scientific discoveries, helping ensure some cancers are effectively eliminated and that many more are prevented from developing in the first place.

Key figures from our Annual Report and Accounts include:

  • Cancer Research UK raised a total of £668m in 2021/22, £86m more than the previous year
  • Cancer Research UK spent £471m on charitable activities over the last financial year. This includes £443m on cancer research, up £55m from 2020/21*
  • Cancer Research UK’s annual research activity spend was £388m compared to £421m in the previous year, a reduction of 7.8%, due to the continued impact of funding cuts in 2020/21**
  • Cancer Research UK is committed to spending at least £1.5bn on research over the next 5 years.

Driving translation

We remain the largest charitable funder of cancer research, supporting over 4,000 researchers, doctors, and nurses in more than 130 global institutions.

Our investment into 4 core-funded research institutes in London, Cambridge, Manchester and Glasgow, as well as a national network of centres, clinical trials units and experimental cancer medicine centres helps to drive translation, ensuring that our research has a direct impact on people with cancer.

In April 2022 we launched Cancer Research Horizons. This unites all of our drug discovery capabilities and commercialisation expertise under one umbrella. This joined-up approach will translate more discoveries into treatments for patients, faster.

“We’ve made huge strides in our understanding of cancer this year. Findings from the Cancer Grand Challenges Mutographs team unearthed new information about the very early stages of cancer development, while the SPECIFICANCER team have discovered that cancers in different parts of the body develop their own ways to hide from the immune system. And the outcome of a study funded by Cancer Research UK shows that the UK’s HPV vaccination programme has resulted in an almost 90% drop in cervical cancer rates amongst those vaccinated. These findings have the power to bring about huge advances in the prevention and treatment of cancer,” said Mitchell.

Celebrating 20 years of Cancer Research UK

This year marks 20 years since Cancer Research UK was formed, and 120 years since the founding of the Imperial Cancer Fund.

This is a proud moment for the charity, and offers a chance to celebrate the impact of our work, such as our role in the development of more than 50 cancer drugs, radiotherapy, and the HPV vaccine.

The impact of COVID-19

After a few difficult years following the COVID-19 pandemic, the charity has performed better than expected in 2021/2022.

Cancer Research UK initially expected to see a £300m reduction in income over 3 years (2020-23) due to the pandemic. However, following better performance than expected over the past 2 years, the charity now predicts the impact of the pandemic will be roughly £200m.

“Despite the progress that we’ve made over the past 12 months, we know that the impact of the pandemic on people affected by cancer, and research, will continue to be felt for years to come,” said Mitchell

“There’s still a significant backlog of people waiting for tests and treatments, we aren’t making fast enough progress with early diagnosis and cancer survival, and we can’t be satisfied with the slow pace of recovery in clinical research.

“The next 12 months will be a critical time for us to put cancer back at the top of the agenda, positively influence cancer plans across all four UK nations and shape the UK Government’s 10-year cancer plan. We’re looking to the future with optimism – a future in which we bring about a world where everyone can live longer, better lives, free from the fear of cancer.”

For every £1 donated, 81p was available to beat cancer in 2021/22.

For further information about Cancer Research UK’s work and to view this year’s Annual Report and Accounts, visit our website.

*We spent £471m on charitable activities, an increase of £52m on the previous year. This was mainly due to a one-off adjustment to re-align the timing of our Institute and Clinical Training annual awards from April to March (£55m). Issuing the awards a month early gave the recipients certainty ahead of the start of their financial year in April 2022. It also means that our expenditure next year will not include these commitments and may appear lower as a result. 

**Annual research activity equates to research carried out in the financial year, much of which was committed in previous years. This is different to the £443m cancer research spend, which includes new research grants that will be paid out over several years.