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Paying for trials

Women discussing trials

This page tells you about funding for clinical research in the UK. It has information about


Who funds research in the UK

Cancer research in the UK is funded by drug companies, charities and the UK Government.


What funding covers

It costs a lot of money to fund clinical trials. Research costs that have to be covered include

  • Treatments
  • Research staff to run the trial and collect the data
  • Staff and computer technology to analyse the results
  • Administrative costs - paperwork, overseeing the protocol, data collection and production of results
  • Cost of extra tests or hospital stays for patients taking part

The money for tests and costs of hospital stays often comes from the government. The NHS covers the costs of trials that are part of the National Institute for Health Research Cancer Research Network's (NCRN) portfolio of clinical trials. If a drug company is running the trial, they have to pay the hospital back the costs of tests and patient stays.


Drug companies

Pharmaceutical companies fund a large amount of cancer research in the UK. Companies run their own trials looking at drugs they have developed. They also sometimes give a grant or supply the drug free of charge for a trial run by other organisations.



Many charities in the UK fund cancer research. Cancer Research UK is the single largest funder of cancer research in the UK.

Many charities fund UK research into treatment for specific cancers. For example

There is more information about clinical trial organisations on our website.



The Government currently funds health related research through organisations such as the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). 

They also help to coordinate cancer research nationally through the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI).


Co-ordinating cancer research in the UK

The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) was set up in April 2001. It is a partnership between the NHS and over 20 research organisations, including Cancer Research UK. There is a full list of partners on the NCRI website.

The aim of the NCRI is to oversee and coordinate cancer research in the UK. They also look at the range of research that is being done and spot gaps in research that need to be filled. They encourage collaboration between different research organisations to improve the speed and quality of cancer research in the UK.

The National Institute for Health Research Cancer Research Network (NCRN) coordinates the provision of resources within the NHS. This includes staff such as research nurses and data managers. The original aim of the NCRN was to double the number of cancer patients taking part in clinical trials in England by 2006. They reached the target early, and the number of patients taking part in trials continues to grow. Around 20 out of 100 cancer patients in the UK (20%) take part in clinical trials now.


International trials

Some trials that are recruiting patients in the UK are international trials. They may be run by organisations outside the UK, such as the European Organisation for Research and Treatment for Cancer (EORTC). Or American organisations such as the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

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Updated: 9 October 2013