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2022/23 in review: Cancer Research UK reports good progress in a tough climate

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by Cancer Research UK | News

24 August 2023

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Researchers working in our Cambridge lab

Cancer Research UK is pleased with the progress it’s made this year, but remains concerned about the situation for cancer patients, after the publication of its Annual Reports and Accounts 2022/23 today. 

The charity continues to take important steps towards achieving its vision of bringing about a world where everybody lives longer, better lives, free from the fear of cancer. 

We started this financial year with optimism and ambition, ready to seize opportunities. We’ve made great progress in the face of significant challenges and none of this would’ve been possible without the generosity and commitment of our supporters, as well as the tireless work of our staff, volunteers, partners and cancer patients.

- Michelle Mitchell OBE, the chief executive of Cancer Research UK

Following the launch of its new long-term strategy in March 2022, the charity has made important progress against its strategic priorities: discover, translate, engage, partner and sustain. 

Driving research 

Over the past year, the charity has made significant discoveries as a result of past funding.  

This includes its flagship investment in lung cancer, TRACERx, uncovering how cancer cells protect themselves from the body’s immune system, as well as the role pollution plays in the development of lung cancer in people who have never smoked.  

There have also been exciting findings from researchers in Cambridge about metastasis, the process by which cancer spreads, which could lead to new types of treatment to stop cancer from spreading and in turn keep many more patients alive longer. 

Life-saving research is making a difference to patients right now and we’re finding new ways to understand, prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer.

From our flagship lung cancer research project, TRACERx, making exciting discoveries, to supporting new Cancer Grand Challenges teams to take on some of the toughest challenges in cancer and launching our Smokefree campaign, we’ve taken important steps this year towards achieving our vision to bring about a world where everybody lives longer, better lives, free from the fear of cancer.

- Michelle Mitchell

Progress for people affected by cancer 

Small but important changes to treatments can have a big difference for patients.  

Earlier this year, the charity announced that its FOxTROT trial, run by researchers in Birmingham and Leeds, has shown that people with bowel cancer have a lower chance of their cancer coming back if they begin chemotherapy before they have surgery to remove their tumour.  

At least 5,000 people should benefit from the change every year in the UK, at no extra cost to the NHS. Worldwide, the researchers predict it could be used to treat hundreds of thousands more. 

The charity is also laying the foundations for significant future progress and impact.  

This includes agreeing new long-term funding for the Francis Crick Institute, which is home to scientists making discoveries that will transform the understanding of human health and disease, and the launch of Cancer Research Horizons in April 2022.  

This new innovation engine unites all of the charity’s drug discovery, clinical development capabilities and commercialisation expertise under one umbrella, and it is hoped that this will take cutting-edge innovations from the lab bench to the bedside and bring new treatments to people with cancer faster. 

Cancer Research UK also continues to deliver high quality and trusted cancer information to the public. This year, over 19 million people accessed the charity’s About Cancer website, an increase from 15.7m last year and its helpline nurses responded to over 13,000 people with questions about cancer. 

The power of partnerships 

To have the biggest possible impact, Cancer Research UK regularly partners with other organisations. 

This year it worked together with organisations who share its commitment to beating cancer in children and young people including Little Princess Trust, Children with Cancer UK, Great Ormond Street Hospital and Blood Cancer UK.  

Through these partnerships, Cancer Research UK wants to accelerate progress to ensure more children and young people can survive cancer with a good quality of life. 

Flourishing through a year of uncertainty 

Despite a year of economic uncertainty, Cancer Research UK has delivered a strong financial performance.  

Thanks to the support of the public, volunteers, partners, staff and the research community, the charity has been able to fund world class research throughout the year to deepen its understanding of cancer and how best to prevent, treat and diagnose it, making a difference for people affected by cancer around the world. 

Key figures from the Annual Report and Accounts include:

  • Cancer Research UK raised a total of £719m, £51m more than the previous year. This increase is due to the continued generosity of its supporters, a strong performance from shops, a rise in the value of legacies received, and income from the Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK
  • The charity’s annual research activity spend was £415m compared with £388m in the previous year, an increase of 7%
  • Cancer Research UK is the largest charitable funder of cancer research in the world and remains on track to spend £1.5bn on research over a five-year period of 2021/22 to 2025/26
  • In 2022/23, 82p in every £1 donated was available to beat cancer

The road ahead 

But despite this exciting progress, the charity warns that there are still concerns for those affected by cancer. 

“The situation for people affected by cancer across the UK remains very worrying,” said Mitchell. 

“Survival isn’t improving as quickly as we would like, and long waiting times for tests and treatments are leaving many people facing fear and uncertainty.  

“Developing a long-term strategic approach for cancer, planning and investing in the cancer workforce and prioritising early diagnosis are essential to transform cancer survival in the UK from world lagging to world leading.  

“We will continue to call on leaders across all four UK nations to make this a priority.” 

Looking ahead with optimism  

The past few years of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ongoing cost of living crisis, have been a difficult time for the charity, but they are looking ahead with optimism.  

“We continue to face challenging and tough years ahead,” said Mitchell. 

“The cost-of-living crisis is impacting cancer patients, our supporters and staff, and inflationary pressures affect our ability to raise money and erode the value of each pound we spend on research. I am pleased we’re still on track to spend £1.5bn on research over a five-year period.  

“Cancer Research UK is at its best when we’re bold and ambitious so over the next year we’ll focus on seeking out new opportunities to grow our income and impact. We want to support as much world class life-saving research as possible. 

“We’re looking to the future with continued optimism. Every day we see the impact of our vital work on people affected by cancer and their loved ones. Every day, we’re beating cancer together.”