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7 videos that defined cancer policy in 2023

Headshot of Amelia Bruce
by Amelia Bruce | In depth

27 December 2023

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Smokefree UK Supporters gathered on College Green before the petition hand-in
Smokefree UK supporters gathered on College Green before handing our Smokefree UK petition to 10 Downing Street in September 2023

It’s been another exciting year for policy at Cancer Research UK, and as we like to say, it’s been a marathon, not a sprint. By working together, we’ve taken positive steps forward to help beat cancer sooner, both internationally and across the UK. So, to celebrate our successes, we’ve put together 7 videos that illustrate some of the fantastic progress we’ve made in 2023.  


1 – Our Smokefree UK Campaign 

Smokefree UK petition handin this September

Smoking is still the number one cause of cancer in the UK, causing around 150 cases of cancer per day. This year we made huge strides in our efforts to achieve a smokefree UK and prevent more cancers cause by smoking. 

Since the UK Government’s response to the independent review into tobacco control last April, we’ve been calling for commitments that we felt were missing. This included raising the age of sale of tobacco, and more funding for stop smoking services and public health campaigns to help people quit.   

To mark World No Tobacco Day in May, we launched a petition to the Prime Minister, calling on the UK Government to provide more funding to help people across the UK quit smoking. Then in September we handed in this petition, signed by nearly 14,000 supporters, to 10 Downing Street. Our policy calls were backed by more than 50 MPs, councillors and Lords, and over 20 organisations.   

We were thrilled when, less than a month later at the Conservative Party Conference, the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak announced landmark plans to raise the age of sale of tobacco so that no child born on or after 1 January 2009 will ever be able to be legally sold tobacco products in England. The UK Government also announced more funding for public health campaigns, stop smoking services and to better enforce age of sale laws and combat illicit tobacco. These measures, if implemented, will be a critical step towards creating the first ever smokefree generation.  

Alongside our partners and supporters, we have been campaigning for changes like these for over a decade.   

Next, MPs and Peers will be voting on legislation to raise the age of sale of tobacco. You can join our efforts to help make this happen.  

Email your MP asking them to join you in supporting a smokefree generation.   


2 – We launched Longer, better lives  – A manifesto for cancer research and care

Longer, better lives launch video

November marked the publication of Longer, better lives: A manifesto for cancer research and care. Our manifesto sets out the policies that
, if enacted by the UK Government, will transform UK cancer survival and includes five key pledges.

1 Back research: Set out a plan to close the more than £1bn funding gap for research into cancer over the next decade.  

2 End cancers caused smoking: Raise age of sale of tobacco and fund a world-leading programme of measures to help people who smoke to quit.  

3 Drive earlier diagnoses: Implement proven measures, including a lung screening programme, to diagnose cancers earlier and reduce inequalities in access.  

4 End the waits: Ensure cancer wait time targets are met across England. 

5 Lead on cancer: Publish a long-term cancer strategy for England and establish a National Cancer Council, accountable to the Prime Minister, to drive cross government action on cancer.  

Government action to improve cancer outcomes will mean more cancers prevented, more life-saving research implemented, more people diagnosed and treated earlier and ultimately, more people living longer, better lives.  

In our launch video, Nick Mohammed and Nick Grimshaw are joined by people across the cancer community, to explain the importance of our new manifesto and what the next UK Government needs to do to improve cancer survival in the UK.   

Our policy calls are bold, and if enacted could prevent 20,000 cancer deaths a year by 2040. But we need your help to get there. Sign our open letter calling for party leaders to support our calls.  


3 – Rejoining Horizon Europe

ITV announcement of the Horizon deal

Global collaboration is key to our mission to beat cancer. More than half of Cancer Research UK research published in the last five years involved international collaboration. Horizon Europe is the European Union’s current 7-year, £81bn (€95bn) science funding programme and the world’s largest platform for research collaboration. It’s open to researchers from the EU and associated countries (including New Zealand and Canada).  Associations are key – they are informal or formal organisations of people who come together for a specific scientific purpose.  

UK researchers strongly benefitted from previous programmes and Horizon Europe has a Cancer Mission, so we’ve always been clear that we need to be involved after Brexit. But the journey has been long and uncertain. Negotiations took nearly three years.  

This uncertainty was impacting researchers across the country as well as those in our institutes. Meanwhile, their networks across Europe were moving forward and the UK was being left behind.  

With summer breaks approaching, the opportunity for a deal was fading.  

So, throughout the summer we kept up the pressure. The Guardian published our survey finding that 75% of cancer researchers favoured remaining part of EU funding programmes such as Horizon Europe. It stated that we were risking a ‘brain drain’ of researchers without it – losing scientific talent from the UK.   

When negotiations resumed, the UK scientific community was clear – association opens doors to collaboration and would help attract the world’s best scientists to work here.   

And on the 6th of September the good news came in: the UK will be associated from January 1 2024.   

Horizon Europe association is overwhelmingly in the best interests of cancer patients and scientists, and it is great news for cancer research that agreement has finally been reached.

- Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK

Stability and sustainability are key for cancer research. Horizon Europe runs until 2027 and so we’re already calling for association to subsequent programmes, and other global collaborative initiatives.    

If you’re a UK scientist, find out more about participation in Horizon Europe.   


4 – HPV vaccine roll out in Nigeria 

A summary of all the amazing efforts from the global team in the Solina health HPV vaccine programme

Zooming out on an international scale, this year we continued to work with the Nigeria-based public health research group, Solina Health, to strengthen Nigeria’s approach to HPV vaccination.  

High-risk HPV causes almost all cases of cervical cancer, and so this vaccine helps prevent cervical cancer by protecting against HPV. Our researchers helped develop the vaccine in 2008 and a recent 2021 study found that cervical cancer rates were reduced by almost 90% in women in their 20s in England, who were offered the vaccine aged 12-13. 

Cervical cancer is a significant public health concern, especially in Nigeria, where it’s the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among Nigerian women. Thats why our global team built a strong evidence base demonstrating how HPV vaccine access could be expanded in the country. This formed a crucial basis for Nigeria’s National Cervical Cancer Control Plan earlier this year.  

This work has grown with the launch of Nigeria’s national HPV vaccination programme in October. The Solina team are now integral to the strategic planning of the programme, working closely with Nigeria’s national health and research bodies. They are ensuring the vaccination programme is delivered in collaboration with local community-based organisations, equitably reaches girls in marginalised groups, and stimulate growing public demand for HPV protection. By doing this, Nigeria’s HPV vaccination launch will reach as many adolescent girls as possible and protect them from cervical cancer.  

Thanks to your support, we can continue our international policy work and help to ensure that more people internationally can benefit from our research.  


5 – #MakeLungScreeningHappen in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales 

We listened to and shared the videos of people affected by lung cancer, like Gerard in our featured video, who joined us in calling for change

Targeted lung cancer screening can help save lives. It aims to find lung cancer early in people at higher risk of the disease so that treatment is more likely to be successful. Cancer Research UK
supported the National Screening Committee’s recommendation to each of the UK’s nations to introduce targeted lung screening. So, we’re pleased that England announced and started to implement the rollout of a targeted lung cancer screening programme which will build on the targeted lung health-check programme.   

Now we’re calling for targeted lung screening to be introduced across the UK, as a full commitment to introduce targeted lung cancer screening doesn’t exist in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  

For Lung Cancer Awareness month this November, we launched our #MakeLungScreeningHappen campaign. Throughout the month, with help from our supporters, we helped raise awareness of the need for targeted lung cancer screening. With targeted lung cancer screening, we can reduce the 6,900 lung cancer deaths each year in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales (based on data for 2018, 2019 and 2021).  

In Wales, alongside other charities we set up a petition calling for a commitment from Welsh Government to provide a targeted lung cancer screening programme. We also held a successful drop-in event for MSs in the Senedd around the campaign, and the impact of lung cancer was featured in BBC Wales Today.    

Over in Scotland, our campaigners wrote to their MSPs to support a motion submitted by MSP Sandesh Gullhani to raise the need for a national targeted lung screening programme. The motion now has cross party support with 34 MSPs signing up so far. We also hosted the Scottish Cancer Conference in Glasgow, where our #MakeLungScreeningHappen campaign was raised.   

And while there is no current Assembly in Northern Ireland, we focused on raising awareness, with campaigners in Northern Ireland writing to their MLAs to support the #MakeLungScreeningHappen campaign. The campaign was featured across press outlets including BBC N. Ireland online, Downtown Radio, the Belfast Telegraph and Belfast Live.  

And some progress is being made. Last week, the Welsh Government agreed to scoping targeted lung cancer screening for Wales. And in Scotland, the Cabinet Secretary for NHS Recovery, Health & Social Care, Michael Matheson MSP and Minister for Public Health & Women’s Health, Jenni Minto MSP, have confirmed their support for screening, but we’re awaiting an official ministerial commitment. These are positive steps, but we’re still campaigning for a full commitment and its rollout.  

Over 1000 people have taken so action far – thank you. You can still join the campaign by signing the petition to the Welsh Government to make this a reality. We’ll keep pushing to #MakeLungScreeningHappen in all nations in 2024.   


6 – We took coalition work to new levels with One Cancer Voice

Joining together with One Cancer Voice, a coalition of 60 cancer charities

Working in partnership with our Campaigns Ambassadors and supporters, people affected by cancer, and other charities and organisations is core to how we strive to see change at Cancer Research UK.

And it can see real success. Following years of efforts through our Shoulder to Shoulder and Cancer Won’t Wait campaigns, and working together with the whole health community, the UK Government finally published a long-term plan for the NHS workforce.    

The first of its kind, the plan promised real investment and planning to address NHS workforce shortages and showed the power of working together to beat cancer.  This is a positive step, but we still need a long-term cancer strategy in England.  

In March of this year, more than 60 cancer charities, including Cancer Research UK, united as the coalition One Cancer Voice to to petition the Prime Minister for a fully funded, ambitious, long-term cancer strategy in England.  

This kind of coalition work across cancer charities was unprecedented but necessary, responding to the current state of cancer crisis. Despite the amazing efforts of NHS staff, we’re still experiencing some of the worst cancer waiting times on record, with a significant backlog of patients, and worsening patient experience. Without a solid plan in place, we had to act.  

In just four weeks, our joint petition was signed by more than 76,000 people – speaking as one voice for those affected by cancer.     

Nearly 80 representatives from the One Cancer Voice charities and a selection of MPs gathered outside Parliament with a unified message for the Prime Minister: it’s time to address the cancer emergency in England and take action to improve outcomes for people affected by cancer. We’re still awaiting a long-term cancer strategy for England. With your support, it’s something we’ll continue to call for in the new year. 

 7 – We marked World Cancer Day 

Our senior leadership team shared why World Cancer Day is important to them

February 4 marks world cancer day, a day where each year people gather around the world to remember those they have lost and recognise the impacts of cancer.  

In 2023, Cancer Research UK Campaigns Ambassadors – our political campaigning volunteers – came together in both Manchester and London for a day of skills building and campaigning.  They heard from researchers, policy professionals and the campaigns team to learn more about the Smokefree UK campaign successes so far and what was to come.   

For the events, the senior leadership team at Cancer Research UK created a special video detailing what world cancer day meant to them which was a particularly inspiring addition to the day.   

Over in Parliament, we also held a drop-in event, focusing on the need for cancer to have its own long-term strategy. During the event, we offered MPs their local cancer waiting time statistics, enabled them to speak to both our fantastic Campaign Ambassadors and Cancer Research UK-funded researchers and to our policy team about why a longer-term cancer strategy is needed in England.  

Looking forward to 2024 

We’ve achieved some big milestones in 2023 – but we still have more to do. We’ve worked together across four nations, with fellow cancer charities and internationally to influence policies that support research and improve patient outcomes. We cannot do this alone. Thank you for your continued support.  

With a General Election on the horizon, next year will be an eventful one for policy and campaigns at Cancer Research UK. Find out how you can join our Ambassador Programme and campaign for change with us


With credit to our creative Studio team at Cancer Research UK for many of these videos.


  • Mrs Baqia siddiqui
    5 January 2024

    It was nice to know about ,what the world is doing about cancer,but it would be nicer to,if we could do more to cure and prevent cancer,like alcohol and other drugs which also can cause cancer. If we can keep aside all the alcohol and drug based food which can be the cause of many cancer.

  • Susan Richardson
    2 January 2024

    Looking at the videos was time consuming, but well done! I feel it was worth it, as they summarised central issues concisely and gave some useful information. And hope – it was nice to see such a positive approach, not only to the possibility of cure and prevention but also to helping people to live with it for as long as possible.

Tell us what you think

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read our comment policy.


  • Mrs Baqia siddiqui
    5 January 2024

    It was nice to know about ,what the world is doing about cancer,but it would be nicer to,if we could do more to cure and prevent cancer,like alcohol and other drugs which also can cause cancer. If we can keep aside all the alcohol and drug based food which can be the cause of many cancer.

  • Susan Richardson
    2 January 2024

    Looking at the videos was time consuming, but well done! I feel it was worth it, as they summarised central issues concisely and gave some useful information. And hope – it was nice to see such a positive approach, not only to the possibility of cure and prevention but also to helping people to live with it for as long as possible.

Tell us what you think

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read our comment policy.