View from the board: What's in store for Cancer Research UK in 2020

Cancer Research UK

As we start not only a new year but a new decade, we asked some of Cancer Research UK’s Executive Board what they are most looking forward to in 2020…

Michelle Mitchell CBE, Chief Executive

“Strategy will be a key focus for us in 2020. While we are in a strong position financially, we are still thinking hard about how we can work as efficiently as possible, and make sure we’re ready for the future. None of our progress would be possible without our people, so we’ll be continuing to engage our staff, volunteers and supporters in shaping our work and developing our new strategy so that we can be sure we’re in the best position to make the biggest difference possible for people affected by cancer.

“I see our role as acting as a convener, bringing together the best minds and breaking down barriers between organisations to reach our goals quicker. Although we’re a big charity, we know we can’t beat cancer alone. I’m going into my second year as Chief Executive even more confident that with the support of our staff, researchers, volunteers, clinicians, supporters and people affected by the disease, together we will beat cancer.”

Iain Foulkes, Executive Director of Research & Innovation and Chief Executive of Cancer Research Technology

“2020 heralds a new decade and one that I believe will be remembered for the progress we make against cancer. One of the UK’s strengths is its clinical trial portfolio. We’re fortunate to have a single health system and patients who are willing to participate in trials. This year, we anticipate some really important trial results that could pave the way for new treatments and diagnostic approaches, which will save lives both here in the UK and around the world – particularly in rarer cancers such as brain and oesophageal. But we will also fund more new trials – a testament to the increasing rate of discovery and novel ways to tackle the disease.

“We will also be funding some major new programmes in paediatric cancers in partnership with the US. We need new insight into the biology of children’s cancers if we are to make progress and we’re excited by the interest the research community is showing following our recent work in this important area.”

Frances Milner, Executive Director of Philanthropy & Partnerships

“For the past 3-4 years, we’ve been doing a lot of work to build momentum and grow the Philanthropy & Partnerships area of our charity and I think this year things are really going to take off.

“First up, we’ll see the next round of Grand Challenge launched in February. Grand Challenge is our most ambitious cancer research initiative, where awards of up to £20m unite the best scientists from around the world to take on the toughest challenges in cancer. They give teams the freedom to try new approaches at a scale that’s not possible with other funding routes. I’m really excited to see what our expert Grand Challenge panel, led by its new Chair, the Nobel laureate Sir Paul Nurse, are going to say the most important questions in research are. Then we’ll need to be ready to engage our philanthropic donors in supporting these cutting-edge pieces of research.”

Tiffany Hall, Chief Information Officer

“As part of the move to our new headquarters in London’s Stratford in autumn 2019, we introduced new laptops, new communication and collaboration tools, and meeting rooms that are appropriately equipped for multi-site meetings via video broadcasts to help us become more adaptive and flexible in our ways of working. We’re already making extensive use of this, with lots of people working remotely and still feeling part of the team.

“In 2020, I’m looking forward to us getting really good at this. Here at Cancer Research UK, those doing international work with our research community have long been comfortable with these ways of working, and our regional and home-based teams have been reasonably adept, but for many of our colleagues it’s a new world. Our documents are also now all cloud-based, enabling us to work together simultaneously on the same content, which is much more efficient than pinging emails to and fro with comments and marked-up attachments. Microsoft reckon we’re well ahead of the rest of the charity sector in this area, but I know there is so much more we can still do with modern tools to make us work as effectively as possible for our beneficiaries and supporters.”

Sarah Woolnough, Executive Director of Policy & Information

“One area of focus for us is going to be lung cancer, which is the third largest cancer in terms of incidence, with high mortality rates and little improvement in outcomes over the past 40 years. We want to make a really concerted effort to tackle late-stage cancer diagnosis, particularly in lung cancer, and support a whole range of upcoming initiatives that could help to improve outcomes.

“One example is the lung cancer screening health checks that the NHS is rolling out in certain communities. We already have very successful screening programmes for breast, bowel and cervical cancer, and this could be the first step on the road to a national lung cancer screening programme, so we’re delighted to be working very closely with a range of partners to support and promote this initiative. We’re also working to understand why access to the best treatments for lung cancer varies across the country, and how we can ensure everyone has the very best treatments available to them.”     

If you’re looking to start a philanthropic journey with Cancer Research UK, please contact nicola.lightfoot@cancer.org.uk