Deadliest cancers have received just 7% of research funding over 10 years

The Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce is calling on the government to end the vicious cycle of research neglect which has seen survivability stagnate amongst the six deadliest cancers over the last decade.

Communications team
11 November 2019

In a new report released today The Taskforce, of which Pancreatic Cancer UK is a member, states the central challenge to increasing the 5-year survival over the next decade is addressing the slow progress of research. While more common cancers such as breast cancer have seen a huge boost in survivability, less survivable cancers such as brain cancer and pancreatic cancer remain as deadly as ever. The report argues this disparity in patient outcomes is due to research and funding inequalities.

Half of all cancer deaths in the UK are as a result of lung, liver, brain, stomach, oesophageal or pancreatic cancer yet less than 7% of government cancer research funding over 10 years has been focused on these less survivable cancers.

The report identifies that a key barrier to research breakthroughs is the perception that the deadliest cancers are too difficult to cure. This perception has meant that research funding is being diverted away, creating a vicious cycle of neglect, ensuring that prognoses remain poor.

The current five-year survival of the less survivable cancers grouped together stands at just 14% in England. The Taskforce is calling on the government to break this vicious cycle and encourage researchers to focus on less survivable cancers by adopting a formal survival target, committing to doubling survival rates to 28% by 2029.

Further to this, the Taskforce recommends long-term dedicated support of initiatives that coordinate and network the less survivable cancers research communities such as international conferences and steering groups. This will allow a greater understanding of other work in the field to ensure research efforts complement and synergise rather than duplicate each other.

The Taskforce is also critical of the Government’s “all cancer approach” highlighting that the Government’s resistance to prioritising specific cancers ignores the inequalities already present in cancer research.

The Taskforce knows that the only way to transform survival is to invest in hard-to-treat diseases. The report makes a series of recommendations to improve the survivability of the deadliest cancers including prioritising research programmes and investment decisions according to current survivability and mortality rather than prevalence.

It also suggests funding new designated early career fellowships to encourage researchers to build their careers in tackling less survivable cancers to encourage much needed research.

Anna Jewell, of the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce said:

“Every eight minutes a patient in England is diagnosed with a less survivable cancer yet these patients are facing a struggle, with limited treatment options. Decades of underfunding and neglect have resulted in a survival rate of just 14%. Pharmaceutical companies are unwilling to perform clinical trials due to the negative results, which will result in less funding. If the Government is serious about transforming the fight against cancer, then it must step up and invest in research for the Less Survivable Cancers.”