News from Around the Globe

Research is constant.  Every day we are learning more about how to fight cancer in all of its forms.  Here are the latest news articles from some of the leading cancer organizations.  Check back often to stay up to date.

news from around the world

Photo by brotiN biswaS from Pexels

Stronger Than Cancer has shared these news articles for information purposes only.  It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

 

Prostate cancer treatment approved in England

2 hours 44 minutes hence

News report

Following its approval in Scotland 2 weeks ago, a new treatment will now be available on the NHS in England for some people with prostate cancer.

Currently, androgen deprivation therapy (or ADT) is a cornerstone of prostate cancer treatment as it reduces the level of testosterone (the hormone that helps the growth and spread of the cancer). However, in cases where this treatment doesn’t work, there are no alternatives other than to continue.

But the latest decision changes that. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) approved darolutamide with standard hormone therapies for adults whose prostate cancer hasn’t spread outside the prostate, has stopped responding to ADT (castration resistant) and are at high risk of developing metastatic disease in the future. 

“This decision will be welcome news to patients who until now have had no option but to continue with a treatment that their cancer has stopped responding to.” – Kruti Shrotri, head of policy development at Cancer Research UK.

Darolutamide works by blocking the activation of testosterone receptors on cancer cells, thereby limiting the growth of the cancer.

Clinical trial data has shown that individuals taking darolutamide alongside ADT have more time before their cancer spreads outside of the prostate compared to those taking ADT on its own. The data also suggest that this combination increases the length of time people live (overall survival), but the long-term benefits are unclear.

Despite this uncertainty, the treatment is considered to be cost-effective and will now be an option on the NHS in England. NICE decisions are usually adopted by Wales and Northern Ireland, so it’s expected the treatment will be available in all 3 nations. 

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Opinion: ‘We can’t afford to stop now’

1 hour 1 minute ago

Science blog

Last week, people around the country waited to hear what the UK Government would spend money on next year. It was a tense wait, for many reasons. This year has been difficult for everyone – for people affected by cancer, for cancer researchers, for us as a charity – and the spending review was an opportunity to move forward with recovery. For the past few months, we’ve been working closely with our brilliant campaigners, researchers and other charities to help make the case for support.


Michelle Mitchell is our Chief Executive.

Overall, the results were a mixed bag – but a step in the right direction. We saw some extra funding for the NHS, and though much more is needed, it moves us one step closer to improving cancer survival for people in the UK. But while it was clear that the Government sees the value in research and development, medical research charities didn’t get the lifeline we were hoping for. 

We can’t stop now. 1 in 2 people born since 1960 will get cancer. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we’ve helped double cancer survival in the last 40 years. Despite this fantastic progress in cancer survival, too many people still die from cancer every year. We’ve got bold goals for improving cancer survival and we’re guided by a vision for a world where all cancers are cured.   

We’ve got reason to be confident, because we know from our history that research saves lives. Our research has played a role in developing 8 out of the world’s top 10 cancer drugs, and every day we take steps forward. Just this month the first chemotherapy-free drug combo for bowel cancer was approved for NHS use in England, drugs that were built on foundations laid 20 years ago by our researchers. 

But COVID-19 has slowed down our efforts to beat cancer, and it’s made our mission a whole lot harder.  

Because to fund that research, to make that progress, we need to raise funds every year. Every step we take towards beating cancer relies on every pound donated. 

Unfortunately, that’s been harder this year than it’s ever been, as the pandemic has disrupted so much of our fundraising. It was the right thing to do to keep our community safe, but it’s meant that in a matter of days, we were knocked off course.  

We expect to lose 30% of our income this year alone, and it’ll take several years to recover. 

Without further support, we’ll need to make major cuts to our research budget  every year for the next 4 to 5 years. This  would mean we’ll be spending £150 million less per year by 2024 than we’d planned to. 

The impact of this funding crisis is already being felt. Normally, we’d be funding 10 clinical trials each year to test new treatments. But we haven’t been able to fund any new trials in 2020 and applications for new trials have been halted until next spring.  

It’s taken decades to build this momentum. If we have to make this level of cuts, it’ll take years to get that back. We can’t afford to stop now.  

That’s why for the first time in our history, we asked the Government to step in, to invest in our world-leading, game-changing, life-saving research. Thank you to everyone who added their voices to that call. 

We know that this would be a solid investment for a Government, and a Prime Minister with a vision for the UK as a science superpower. And in the years to come, that investment would pay dividends for people with cancer.  

The UK could become a science superpower – but not without charities like ours. Because we don’t just fund over half of publicly funded cancer research in the UK, we also fund state-of-the art facilities and support thousands of scientists across the UK.

The Government did announce an increase in research and development spending – a total of £14.6 billion will be spent over the next year. They’ve shown their commitment to science, but there were no commitments to spend some of that money on supporting medical research charities.  

We are taking this forward with the Government as a matter of urgency and we’ll keep up the pressure. Even a small amount from the Government would be a lifeline for our research.  

COVID-19 has left us facing one of the most difficult challenges in our history. But despite the devastating impact of the pandemic, we’re absolutely determined to continue saving lives.  

We’ve always known that no one organisation, sector or even country can beat cancer alone. That has never been truer than it is now. We are a community of millions, desperate to see progress in cancer survival. 

And with your continued support, we’ll have cause for hope.  

Michelle Mitchell is the Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK.

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NHS to pilot blood test that could detect over 50 different cancer types

3 days 1 hour ago

News report

A ‘potentially revolutionary’ blood test that could detect a range of different types of cancer is to be trialled by the NHS in a world-leading programme, NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens announced today.  

The new test, known as the Galleri blood test, was developed by the company GRAIL and aims to detect cancers early by looking for abnormal DNA shed from cells into the blood.  

So far, the blood test has only been trialled on people with signs of cancer, but the latest NHS England pilot will test if it can spot cancer in people without symptoms. 

“Earlier detection of cancer offers arguably the single biggest opportunity to save lives from the disease, and tests like GRAIL’s have great transformative potential. Large research studies of these tests are essential for determining if they’re effective, and a vital step in getting them to patients, if proven to work.” – Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive.

What do we know about the test so far?  

The Galleri blood test looks for abnormal DNA that has been shed from cancer cells into the blood. DNA from cancer cells often have differences in the chemical tags that sit on the DNA compared with DNA from healthy cells – differences the test is designed to exploit.   

A number of studies have looked to refine the use of this blood test for cancer detection outside the UK. GRAIL themselves have been investigating the use of artificial intelligence in the interpretation of the blood test results. Cancer Research UK covered some of the findings released by GRAIL earlier this year.  

Results from these studies have so far been promising, and a particular focus point for good news is the large number of cancer types that it seems to be able to pick up, including some cancer types that are considered difficult to diagnose early, including head and neck, ovarian, pancreatic, oesophageal and some blood cancers. 

However, there are some questions that remain unanswered.  

As our head of early diagnosis, Jodie Moffat, explains, one of the challenges that arises from this type of test is how difficult it is to detect very small quantities of abnormal DNA circulating in the blood. Because the amount of circulating tumour DNA tends to increase as a cancer becomes more advanced, these types of blood tests tend to be better at picking up later stage disease. Based on the results we have seen so far, the test is not currently that good at picking up stage 1 cancer, where the cancer is small and hasn’t spread to other parts of the body. 

What’s more, the number of cancers that have been analysed, particularly for some rarer cancer types, has been very small. The NHS pilot is an opportunity to trial the test in a much larger sample, with longer follow up of patients not testing positive and a chance to iron out some of these limitations. 

The findings of this large scale research project will also be key to understanding the negative impacts of the test – including measuring the number of people who test positive but don’t go on to be diagnosed with cancer and if any cancers are missed by false negatives, as well as the impact of the process and results on people’s mental health.  

Another key factor is that the researchers ensure the test is accessible to all and doesn’t exacerbate inequalities and that people taking part in the study are representative of the UK’s diverse population.  

The pilot study 

The GRAIL pilot is due to begin later next year with 165,000 participants in total. This will include 140,000 people aged 50 to 79 who will be identified through NHS records and asked to take part. This group will have no symptoms and will have annual blood tests for 3 years. Anyone with a positive Galleri blood test result will be referred for further investigation in the NHS. 

A further 25,000 people with possible cancer symptoms will also be offered testing once they have been referred to hospital in the usual way, to see if Galleri could be used tospeed up their diagnosis. This might be particularly helpful when patients experience symptoms that could be linked to several different types of cancer. . 

Results from these studies are expected to be released by 2023. If outcomes from these initial pilots are positive, the studies will be expanded to involve around 1 million participants in 2024 and 2025.

Importance of early diagnosis  

Cancer that’s diagnosed at an early stage, when it isn’t too large and hasn’t spread, is more likely to be treated successfully. Right now, in England about 55% of cancer cases that can be staged are diagnosed in the earliest stages (stage 1 and 2).  

“All too often, people are diagnosed with cancer at a late stage, when their disease is more difficult to treat. This is a human tragedy, not just in terms of lives lost, but it also means more expensive treatments, hospital stays and monitoring,” says Mitchell. "If we can find cancer at its earliest stages when it’s easier to treat, not only will we be able to save lives on a vast scale, but we may be able to save our NHS millions of pounds.” 

The NHS Long Term Plan, published at beginning of 2019, aims to increase the number who are diagnosed early so that by 2028, 75% of cancers will be diagnosed at the earliest stages (stage 1 or 2). The Galleri blood test could be play a part in making that goal a reality. The results of the pilot will be key to understanding if this could be the case. 

“The NHS has set itself an ambitious target, to find three-quarters of cancers at an early stage, when they have the highest chance of cure. Tests like this may help us get there far faster, and I am excited to see how this cutting-edge technology will work out, as we test it in clinics across the NHS.” – Professor Peter Johnson, National Clinical Director for Cancer at NHS England and improvement.

While this test looks promising and this research may provide useful evidence, one test alone is unlikely to be able to transform the entire healthcare system to deliver early detection for all.  We mustn’t take our eye off the need for other research and piloting, and speedy implementation of the things we already know work well.   

Earlier this year, Cancer Research UK set out an Early Detection Roadmap  to address some of the problems and challenges facing the entire early diagnosis ecosystem, from the development of new tests, through to boosting capacity in diagnosis.  

This will still require vital investment in more NHS equipment and workforce, investment that we’ve called for many years. Yesterday, the chancellor Rishi Sunak announced some welcome funding for the NHS in the UK Government’s spending.  

“The announcements from the Government in the spending review yesterday were a step in the right direction, but we will need further long term investment in both cancer services and research and development to make early detection of cancer a reality for every patient,” says Mitchell. 

 

Read more

NHS to pilot blood test that could detect over 50 different types

3 days 1 hour ago

News report

A ‘potentially revolutionary’ blood test that could detect a range of different types of cancer is to be trialled by the NHS in a world-leading programme, NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens announced today.  

The new test, known as the Galleri blood test, was developed by the company GRAIL and aims to detect cancers early by looking for abnormal DNA shed from cells into the blood.  

So far, the blood test has only been trialled on people with signs of cancer, but the latest NHS England pilot will test if it can spot cancer in people without symptoms. 

“Earlier detection of cancer offers arguably the single biggest opportunity to save lives from the disease, and tests like GRAIL’s have great transformative potential. Large research studies of these tests are essential for determining if they’re effective, and a vital step in getting them to patients, if proven to work.” – Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive.

What do we know about the test so far?  

The Galleri blood test looks for abnormal DNA that has been shed from cancer cells into the blood. DNA from cancer cells often have differences in the chemical tags that sit on the DNA compared with DNA from healthy cells – differences the test is designed to exploit.   

A number of studies have looked to refine the use of this blood test for cancer detection outside the UK. GRAIL themselves have been investigating the use of artificial intelligence in the interpretation of the blood test results. Cancer Research UK covered some of the findings released by GRAIL earlier this year.  

Results from these studies have so far been promising, and a particular focus point for good news is the large number of cancer types that it seems to be able to pick up, including some cancer types that are considered difficult to diagnose early, including head and neck, ovarian, pancreatic, oesophageal and some blood cancers. 

However, there are some questions that remain unanswered.  

As our head of early diagnosis, Jodie Moffat, explains, one of the challenges that arises from this type of test is how difficult it is to detect very small quantities of abnormal DNA circulating in the blood. Because the amount of circulating tumour DNA tends to increase as a cancer becomes more advanced, these types of blood tests tend to be better at picking up later stage disease. Based on the results we have seen so far, the test is not currently that good at picking up stage 1 cancer, where the cancer is small and hasn’t spread to other parts of the body. 

What’s more, the number of cancers that have been analysed, particularly for some rarer cancer types, has been very small. The NHS pilot is an opportunity to trial the test in a much larger sample, with longer follow up of patients not testing positive and a chance to iron out some of these limitations. 

The findings of this large scale research project will also be key to understanding the negative impacts of the test – including measuring the number of people who test positive but don’t go on to be diagnosed with cancer and if any cancers are missed by false negatives, as well as the impact of the process and results on people’s mental health.  

Another key factor is that the researchers ensure the test is accessible to all and doesn’t exacerbate inequalities and that people taking part in the study are representative of the UK’s diverse population.  

The pilot study 

The GRAIL pilot is due to begin later next year with 165,000 participants in total. This will include 140,000 people aged 50 to 79 who will be identified through NHS records and asked to take part. This group will have no symptoms and will have annual blood tests for 3 years. Anyone with a positive Galleri blood test result will be referred for further investigation in the NHS. 

A further 25,000 people with possible cancer symptoms will also be offered testing once they have been referred to hospital in the usual way, to see if Galleri could be used tospeed up their diagnosis. This might be particularly helpful when patients experience symptoms that could be linked to several different types of cancer. . 

Results from these studies are expected to be released by 2023. If outcomes from these initial pilots are positive, the studies will be expanded to involve around 1 million participants in 2024 and 2025.

Importance of early diagnosis  

Cancer that’s diagnosed at an early stage, when it isn’t too large and hasn’t spread, is more likely to be treated successfully. Right now, in England about 55% of cancer cases that can be staged are diagnosed in the earliest stages (stage 1 and 2).  

“All too often, people are diagnosed with cancer at a late stage, when their disease is more difficult to treat. This is a human tragedy, not just in terms of lives lost, but it also means more expensive treatments, hospital stays and monitoring,” says Mitchell. "If we can find cancer at its earliest stages when it’s easier to treat, not only will we be able to save lives on a vast scale, but we may be able to save our NHS millions of pounds.” 

The NHS Long Term Plan, published at beginning of 2019, aims to increase the number who are diagnosed early so that by 2028, 75% of cancers will be diagnosed at the earliest stages (stage 1 or 2). The Galleri blood test could be play a part in making that goal a reality. The results of the pilot will be key to understanding if this could be the case. 

“The NHS has set itself an ambitious target, to find three-quarters of cancers at an early stage, when they have the highest chance of cure. Tests like this may help us get there far faster, and I am excited to see how this cutting-edge technology will work out, as we test it in clinics across the NHS.” – Professor Peter Johnson, National Clinical Director for Cancer at NHS England and improvement.

While this test looks promising and this research may provide useful evidence, one test alone is unlikely to be able to transform the entire healthcare system to deliver early detection for all.  We mustn’t take our eye off the need for other research and piloting, and speedy implementation of the things we already know work well.   

Earlier this year, Cancer Research UK set out an Early Detection Roadmap  to address some of the problems and challenges facing the entire early diagnosis ecosystem, from the development of new tests, through to boosting capacity in diagnosis.  

This will still require vital investment in more NHS equipment and workforce, investment that we’ve called for many years. Yesterday, the chancellor Rishi Sunak announced some welcome funding for the NHS in the UK Government’s spending.  

“The announcements from the Government in the spending review yesterday were a step in the right direction, but we will need further long term investment in both cancer services and research and development to make early detection of cancer a reality for every patient,” says Mitchell. 

 

Read more

Reasons to be thankful: 5 US researchers on their work to defeat cancer

4 days 2 hours ago

Philanthropy and partnerships

As Thanksgiving 2020 is celebrated across the pond in a decidedly different set of circumstances due to the pandemic, five of our brilliant American researchers tell us about their pioneering science and why they’re grateful to work in cancer research.

Dr Nate Goehring

Group leader, Polarity and Patterning Networks Laboratory, Francis Crick Institute, London

Nate leads a multidisciplinary team of experts who aim to better understand systems within embryos that form patterns to guide the creation and specification of cells and tissues. They hope to reveal insights that could lead to ways to prevent or treat developmental defects and help explain the link between cellular organisation and cancer.

What are you most grateful for in your work to defeat cancer?

For the advantages of stable core institutional funding that allows us to follow our curiosity and pursue bold blue-sky projects that may not have been a good match for traditional grant funding. But also, core funding allowed the Crick to roll out a coronavirus testing programme earlier this year. Aside from being a huge help to frontline health workers and hospitals, internal testing of Crick staff has meant we’ve been able to return to the bench much earlier and in greater numbers than our colleagues in university labs. We’ve also been able to compensate for research delays to allow people to complete projects that might otherwise have languished if grants had run out or contracts ended. This has been a lifeline to many junior researchers and helped ensure we don’t lose a cohort of new talent.

Why is transatlantic and international collaboration so important for cancer research?

The initiatives that have most clearly impacted my own career have funded the exchange of people. Fellowships funded my own move to pursue opportunities in Europe and ultimately led me to start my own research group in London. All the best institutes I’ve worked at have been chock-full of diverse, interesting and talented people from all over the world, giving these places an excitement, vibrancy and buzz of ideas that naturally led to unexpected collaborations and new ways of thinking. I don’t think one can overestimate the catalytic effect of bringing together in one place a broad range of talented people who carry with them their unique set of ideas, experiences, perspectives and skills.

How will you be celebrating Thanksgiving this year?

As family visits are a no-go, I guess we’ll spend a few hours catching up with everyone by video-chat and maybe swap our normal turkey for something a bit smaller! Maybe a duck?

Learn more about Nate’s lab
  Dr Thea Tlsty

Principal investigator of STORMing Cancer, University of California, San Francisco

Thea heads up one of the seven remarkable teams funded by our Cancer Grand Challenges initiative – a global funding platform founded by Cancer Research UK and the US National Cancer Institute. Thea’s team, named STORMing Cancer, is trying to understand the changes that bring about cancers associated with chronic inflammation, which affect up to 1 in 4 people with cancer around the world. They’re also taking a stealth approach to tumour destruction by targeting the cells and tissues surrounding a tumour, rather than the tumour itself. They’ll use what they learn from these experiments to develop tools to combat these lethal cancers.

What are you most grateful for in your work to defeat cancer?

That I can play a role in the exciting novel efforts to tackle some of the most important questions in cancer research. The design of Cancer Grand Challenges allows us to think big and bring in the best and brightest people from across the globe. These senior and junior colleagues are inspiring and talented – it’s humbling to work with such a crew. And I’m grateful for the chance – just the chance – to make a difference in how lethal cancers will be handled clinically in the future.

Why is transatlantic and international collaboration so important for cancer research?

Diversity is powerful. Having people from different countries with different perspectives, different resources and different concerns is very useful for an all-out approach to addressing a question – especially one as complex as cancer.

How will you be celebrating Thanksgiving this year?

My husband and I will be staying in San Francisco and celebrating all that we have to be thankful for while at home. 

Find out more about Thea’s work 
  Dr Caitlin Brennan

Postdoctoral fellow, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston

Caitlin is studying how a bacterium naturally found in the mouth contributes to bowel cancer progression and spread. She’s part of the OPTIMISTICC Cancer Grand Challenges team, which is investigating how the microbiome – the collection of microbes that occupy the human body – shape outcomes for people with bowel cancer. The team’s discoveries will help to improve the diagnosis and treatment of this disease, which accounted for 1.8 million cancer diagnoses globally in 2018.

What are you most grateful for in your work to defeat cancer?

For the sense of scientific community that the Cancer Grand Challenges initiative has helped develop within my field. Rather than working on our projects separately, and often in parallel, we're making so much more progress working together. The synergy among everyone, paired with the intellectual freedom the Cancer Grand Challenges award allows, is leading us to new discoveries every day.

Why is transatlantic and international collaboration so important for cancer research?

It supports bringing the best scientists together, regardless of national boundaries. Cancer doesn't see those political differences, so neither should we as we work to defeat it.

How will you be celebrating Thanksgiving this year?

I’ll be celebrating here in Boston as my family, who live halfway across the country, decided it wasn't prudent to travel. We've planned a cocktail and hor d'oeuvres Zoom hour to stay connected despite the distance. And I’ll possibly pop into the lab to find out the results of an exciting experiment that will wrap up that week.

Dr Kimmie Ng

Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston

Another member of the OPTIMISTICC Cancer Grand Challenges team, Kimmie is helping to identify dietary, molecular and genetic predictors of improved bowel cancer survival. Like Caitlin, her focus is on the microbiome and her ultimate goal is to translate findings into novel interventions for people with bowel cancer. 

What are you most grateful for in your work to defeat cancer?

The intellectual stimulation I get from working with the world’s microbiome research experts in the OPTIMISTICC team. Without the infrastructure and sustained support of the Cancer Grand Challenges initiative, I would never have had the opportunity to work with these amazing scientists to push the limits of what we can understand about the microbiome in bowel cancer, and what we can do for our patients. 

Why is transatlantic and international collaboration so important for cancer research?

The innovation and creative thinking that’s critical to accelerating cancer research can only come from the diverse perspectives and expertise of international collaboration. And for my work specifically, there is so much we still don’t know about how the microbiome and bowel cancer outcomes vary by geographic, cultural and dietary differences, which reinforces the need for international teams. 

How will you be celebrating Thanksgiving this year? 

One of the sacrifices of being healthcare workers is that we’re unable to quarantine in order to safely gather with our older parents. So Thanksgiving will be spent with just my husband (a neuroradiologist) and two daughters, joined by my sister-in-law and niece, likely eating outdoors in the freezing New England weather! Regardless, we remain grateful for our health and all of the blessings that we have.

Find out more about Caitlin and Kimmie’s work
  Dr Hadley Sheppard

Postdoctoral fellow, Institute of Cancer Research, London (ICR)

Hadley’s work is shedding light on chordoma – a hard-to-treat and understudied bone cancer. She is one of four outstanding researchers to be selected for the Transatlantic Fellowship, an initiative we launched this year in partnership with the American Association for Cancer Research. While studying genetics in Houston, Hadley identified key collaborators in the UK who could help boost her research and is now working with the ICR’s Professor Paul Workman, a world leader in translational science and pharmacology.

What are you most grateful for in your work to defeat cancer?

For Cancer Research UK’s support, which allows my team to conduct cutting-edge, collaborative research. We’re hoping to identify therapies to target proteins called transcription factors, which drive chordoma progression and have historically been considered ‘undruggable’. This could not only improve outcomes for people with chordoma, but also other transcription-factor-driven cancers. The fellowship is enabling me to jump-start this work with independence, while also being supported by the ICR. I’m thrilled to have so much to learn about drug discovery and pharmacology from those around me, which is helping me develop as an innovative scientist. 

Why is transatlantic and international collaboration so important for cancer research?

Conquering cancer cannot be an individual effort. As scientists, we each have our own contributory areas of expertise and we shouldn’t hinder ourselves by geographic location. International collaboration widens the possibilities for varied approaches to solving cancer and will push us towards our goal of defeating it more rapidly.

How will you be celebrating Thanksgiving this year?

I’ve been fortunate to be able to bubble with a neighbour who is native to the UK, so I’m looking forward to preparing a Thanksgiving dinner and sharing my culture with a new friend.

Meet the rest of our Transatlantic Fellows 
 

- As told to Jo Lewin, Philanthropy Editor

Read more

Why Was Chicken the Primary Source of Arsenic Exposure in Children?

4 days 3 hours ago
What was the National Chicken Council’s response to public health authorities calling for the industry to stop feeding arsenic-based drugs to poultry? “Dietary practices influence our […]

Spending Review 2020 – Steps in the right direction, but opportunities missed

4 days 16 hours ago

Science blog

Today, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak set out the UK Government’s spending priorities for the next year.

It was an opportunity to lay the groundwork for the Government to meet its commitments to improve cancer survival and to enhance the UK’s place as a global leader in research, as we’ve written about before.

With investment for the NHS and more investment in research, the commitments outlined today are a step in the right direction. But they’re only a first step. More investment is needed in coming years for the NHS, and more details on whether investment in research includes money to protect charity funded medical research is urgently required.

Here’s what was announced today, where the Government has got it right, and what more needs to be done.

What investment did cancer services need?

We know that diagnosing cancer at the earliest stages saves lives.

Across the UK there are ambitious targets to diagnose cancer earlier, which would give people with cancer more and better treatment options, as well as improving outcomes. But this can’t be done without more investment both to expand the cancer workforce and buy more diagnostic equipment.

Importantly, even before COVID-19 there weren’t enough NHS staff to diagnose and treat cancer, and we’ve estimated the UK Government needs to invest an extra £260 million more over the next 3 to 5 years in the cancer workforce to be able to provide world-class cancer services in the future.

We also have some catching up to do with diagnostic equipment. To reach the average number of MRI and CT scanners – vital to diagnosing many cancers – among leading countries, we’d need to invest £1.5 billion. And introducing innovative models like ‘community diagnostic hubs’ that could help quickly diagnose people with symptoms of cancer would also need investment at least in the hundreds of millions, over a number of years.

What investment did the NHS get?

The good news is the health system in England will get an £3 billion on top of previous commitments. That includes £1 billion for hospitals to ramp up activity across all areas of care – which should give the NHS in England what it needs to cope through the winter.

There’s also an extra £1.5 billion to ease existing pressures on the health service, which should go some way to tackling a cancer backlog now in the millions.

On the NHS workforce and diagnostic equipment, there are also positive commitments for next year.

Vital investment in the NHS workforce has been made with an extra £260 million next year for Health Education England, the body responsible for recruiting and training healthcare staff. We strongly support this investment, which will help address the chronic staff shortages that exist across NHS and will contribute to growing the cancer workforce too.

But it’s vital that it is followed up with funding for the longer-term, as one year’s worth of investment simply isn’t enough. The NHS People Plan published in July this year talked about funding that would make sure education and training was ‘fit for the future.’

There’s also £325 million set aside for new diagnostic kit, which will help upgrade some older scanners. It’s a great start but with billions needed, the Government must commit to a multi-year plan so we can increase service capacity and support setting up new diagnostic hubs.

Devolved nations will receive an equivalent funding uplift, but importantly they don’t have to spend it on workforce and kit – so now governments across the UK must commit to using extra funding to invest in the diagnostic kit and the cancer workforce needed to meet their own ambitions to improve cancer outcomes.

Preventing cancers by funding public health services

Funding for local prevention services that help to improve the nation’s health and reduce people’s risk of cancer like stop smoking, weight management and alcohol treatment services is vital – something the pandemic has only made clearer.

For years, local government has suffered from cuts to their public health budget, and unfortunately, today’s Spending Review failed to provide any meaningful additional investment in local public health, further threatening these important services.

If the Government is serious about reducing health inequalities across the country, next year’s Spending Review must provide longer-term financial certainty, so public health services can build back better in the wake of COVID-19 and help deliver on government ambitions to improve the nation’s health.

Protecting cancer research – real commitments, but clarity still needed

Finally, research. The impact of COVID-19 on medical research charities has been devastating, with the sector expecting a £310m shortfall in their research funding this year alone. That’s why, along with the Association of Medical Research Charities, we called for a 3-year Life Sciences – Charity Partnership Fund, to ensure that ground-breaking research can continue, as we’ve outlined before.

Today, the Government committed to investing £14.6 billion in research next year, alongside some commitments to increase multi-year funding for some research. This is a significant move toward protecting the UK’s place as a global leader in research.

But, whilst some funding has been specifically marked for supporting the whole research and development ecosystem, there was no clear commitment to a Life Sciences – Charity Partnership Fund nor to any targeted support for medical research charities. We now need urgent clarity to understand whether the uplifts to research funding announced will support our vital medical research charities to recover from the impact of COVID-19.

Raising our voices

We called on the UK Government to use the Spending Review as an opportunity to double down on their manifesto commitments and give each part of the UK the funding they need to improve cancer outcomes. Adding their voices to our calls were thousands of our committed campaigners and supporters, who have been invaluable in bringing home to the Government just how important tackling cancer is.

Today, our collective voice has been heard on protecting cancer services, with steps in the right direction through investment in the NHS workforce and diagnostic kit that will help to address the growing cancer backlog. But it doesn’t end here – the money only goes as far as the next year and without the ability to plan for the future, it will be difficult to make long term progress on ambitions to improve early diagnosis and cancer survival.

And while there are positive signs on investment in research, it remains uncertain whether medical research charities like Cancer Research UK will benefit. As we work to recover from the impact of COVID-19, the generosity of our supporters will be more important than ever.

With your help, we will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with people affected by cancer, to speak up on the changes we need to see and to hold Government to account so they take the steps forward we know are vital to saving lives. Together we will beat cancer.

Matt Sample is a policy advisor at Cancer Research UK

To find out more about how the Spending Review will impact people affected by cancer tune in to our webinar on Tuesday 1 December.

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