Then and now – the difference that cancer research makes

Posted on: 04 March 2019 by Cancer Research UK

Following a century of progress, you can fund the future of Cancer Research UK

landmarks in search for cancer cure

Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has seen cancer survival double in the last 40 years. 

More than a third of Cancer Research UK’s life-saving work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer is funded by people who have remembered the charity with a gift in their Will. Pledges of this kind have played a significant role in the vital work of scientists and researchers supported by the charity - changing the future for thousands of people diagnosed with cancer every year.

The charity has been at the cutting-edge of research and the development of new treatments for cancer for more than 100 years, and with the power of pledges, 50% of people diagnosed with cancer survive their disease for 10 years or more in the UK. Here are some of the key milestones the charity has achieved thanks to gifts in Wills from people like you.

1923 – Radiotherapy

Today radiotherapy treats most cancer types and cures more people than cancer drugs. Cancer Research UK supported some of the earliest research into the treatment of cancer with radiation. Indeed, as early as 1923, radiation was bought to treat women with cervical cancer.

1938 – Hormone treatments for prostate cancer

Cancer Research UK scientists developed the first ever man-made hormone, which has been used to treat people with advanced prostate cancer for more than 40 years, paving the way for today’s hormone therapies.

1948 – Breakthrough of chemotherapy drugs

The development of chemotherapy heralded a new era of treatment for cancer. The research of Professor Alexander Haddow led to the development of 3 important chemotherapy drugs: chlorambucil (Leukeran), melphalan (Alkeran) and busulfan (Myleran). More than 70 years later, these three drugs continue to help people with cancers affecting the blood and immune system.

1950s – Understanding smoking and the increased risk of cancer

Professor Sir Richard Doll set in motion a 50-year research project into the link between smoking and cancer. This research has helped raise awareness of the risks associated with smoking and reduced our risk of developing lung cancer.

1964 – Epstein Barr: the first identified cancer virus

The charity’s scientists discovered that Burkitt's lymphoma is caused by a virus. Their work proved the Epstein-Barr virus is responsible for other types of cancer, including some Hodgkin lymphomas and the development of lymphomas in people with weakened immune systems.

How research is helping increase cancer survival

Early 1970s: 24% of people in the UK surviving cancer for 10 years or more

Early 1980s: 29% of people in the UK surviving cancer for 10 years or more

Ealry 1990s: 34% of people in the UK surviving cancer for 10 years or more

Early 2000s: 42% of people in the UK surviving cancer for 10 years or more


Cancer research1991 – A boost in the battle against bowel cancer

Cancer Research UK developed the first new drug in the treatment of bowel cancer for 35 years, following pioneering early work by the charity's scientists. Raltitrexed is still used today to treat bowel cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

1995 – Improved accuracy in cervical screening samples

Scientists funded by Cancer Research UK pioneered a new technique capable of revolutionising the way doctors detect cervical and other cancers.

The test now helps pick up early changes in cervical cells that could lead to cancer. This technique is used in several countries across the world to help pathologists analyse cervical screening samples.

2015 – A breakthrough in the awareness of prostate cancer

Scientists at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute and Addenbrooke's Hospital discovered that prostate cancer is 5 distinct diseases. This discovery could help guide future treatment decisions and is a positive step for the 47,700 diagnosed every year.

2018 – We must do more

Cancer survival may have doubled over the last 40 years, but we cannot be complacent. The fact remains that half of us in the UK born after 1960 will develop cancer in our lifetime. Cancer Research UK receives no government funding, so that’s why gifts left in Wills are so important. 

Cancer Research UK’s vital work is helping to save lives and gives thousands of people more time with their loved ones. Its doctors, scientists and nurses work tirelessly to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, from funding trials into new screening tests to playing a key role in testing drugs like oxaliplatin, which is used to treat forms of bowel cancer.

Together with its supporters, Cancer Research UK continues to apply the latest scientific knowledge and cutting-edge technologies to develop innovative new treatments.

There are more than 200 different types of cancer, and Cancer Research UK is the only UK charity with the expertise and knowledge to tackle them all. Gifts left in Wills are vital if this progress is to continue.


Cancer Research UKPledge right now to help beat cancer sooner

To find our more or to request a free Gifts in Wills guide, visit or call 0800 035 9000.


Fundraising RegulatorCancer Research UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1089464), Scotland (SC041666) and the Isle of Man (1103)”

Share with friends


Cancer Research UK


You need to be signed in to rate.

Loading comments...Loader

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned!