Build our understanding of cancer: our research strategy

Discovery Research

We need to deepen our understanding of the interplay of genes, proteins and the role of the immune system in cancer development and growth. This underpins almost everything we do, from the discovery and development of new therapeutics and diagnostics, to the design of new treatment and prevention strategies.

Cancer biology is an area of strength in the UK and, as the second largest funder of this type of research in the world, we are in an ideal position to drive innovation and progress.

We will continue to invest a significant proportion of our overall budget to strengthen this area. Over the past five years the balance of research we fund has shifted from the investigation of fundamental biological processes, towards more tumour-specific biology. We will continue to support this shift, funding research where there is a clear link to cancer

Sir Paul Nurse

We have an unprecedented opportunity to place the UK at the forefront of global biomedical discovery and its translation into new treatments and technologies that benefit patients.

Professor Sir Paul Nurse, Director of the Francis Crick Institute


Our approach

[Cell icon]

Increase our investment in cancer immunology research

Modulation of the immune system offers great promise as a therapeutic route in cancer. We need to understand much more about the role of the immune system in tumour development. The UK has an outstanding base of immunology researchers, but relatively few are currently focused on cancer. We will grow our portfolio of immunology research through our Institutes and Centres, and through our funding schemes. We will take steps to attract leading immunology researchers to work in the cancer field, including new models of funding.

Invest in our existing funding schemes

We are committed to funding curiosity-driven, investigator-led research that will drive our understanding of cancer. We will increase our investment through our existing funding committees, ensuring that the funding schemes remain competitive by international standards and that we support the very best researchers. We will work with the research community to ensure that applications to these schemes are increasingly aligned with our strategic priorities.


Launch a new award to support innovation

We want to invest in new ideas and approaches to tackling cancer challenges. We will launch a new funding scheme to support small-scale, high-risk/high-reward research. These grants will be primarily awarded based on the quality of the idea and will aim to support genuinely innovative approaches.

Launch a new funding scheme for engineering and physical sciences

Opportunities for innovation arise at the boundaries of different disciplines, and we plan to introduce a new funding scheme to promote multidisciplinary approaches to research. This new award will stimulate collaborations between biomedical research and the engineering and physical sciences, including physics, engineering, materials science, mathematics and chemistry. We will encourage applications across a breadth of areas relevant to cancer, including the development of detection technologies, drug-delivery technologies and imaging.



Opportunities for your research



Our progress

In our 2017 Progress Report, we review how we are accelerating research to achieve our ambitions, and the successes we have had so far. We've built on our strengths and continued to bring new perspectives into cancer research

We've launched eight new funding schemes to stimulate priority areas of research, and these have so far allocated over £140 million. We've more than doubled our spend on cancers with substantial unmet need, to £86 million in 2016/17. And we've invested across our UK-wide network of infrastructure, building capacity at our Centres and launching the new Francis Crick Institute, so that we continue to support an outstanding environment for research.