Covid-19: Cancer research to take a hit

Research into cancer is to take a hit after the UK’s biggest cancer charity announced cuts to funding.

Cancer Research UK (CRUK) said it is reducing its research portfolio as part of efforts to protect the organisation.

The charity, which funds around half of all cancer research in the UK, recognised that reducing spend on research projects would “set back the cancer research effort within the UK, potentially for many years”.

CRUK has already taken steps to reduce the salaries of its board and is in consultation with staff to make similar reductions or enrol workers on the Government furlough scheme.

But it said that was not enough to sure up the future of the charity, so it had to make the “difficult” decision to reduce research funding.

In a letter to the research community, charity officials said: “These cuts are substantial and will set back the cancer research effort within the UK, potentially for many years.

“We’ve also taken the decision to postpone any new funding commitments, which means no new research projects will be funded for at least the first half of this year.

“Making funding cuts to our research – the core purpose of the charity in its mission to beat cancer – is the most difficult decision we’ve had to make.”

It announced that it will cut funding to its existing grants and institutes by up to 10% and its national network of Centres by around 20%.

This works out as a £44 million cut to its research portfolio across the year.

Iain Foulkes, executive director of research and innovation at Cancer Research UK, said: “Covid-19 has left the whole world in uncharted waters. And the unprecedented measures to control the global Covid-19 pandemic have had a huge impact on both our researchers’ ability to carry on in the lab, and on our ability to fundraise. Faced with a predicted loss of 20%-25% of fundraising income, we are forced to look for savings across our current portfolio.

“Cancer Research UK funds nearly 50% of the cancer research in the UK and making cuts to research funding is the most difficult decision we have had to make. We don’t do so lightly.

“We have worked hard to ensure the cuts are limited and give our researchers flexibility in how to make them. Ultimately, it is our research that delivers benefit to people affected by cancer, and this remains our first priority. We are hopeful that limiting our spending now will enable us to continue funding life-saving research in the long run.

“Cancer doesn’t go away during or after Covid-19, but we’re incredibly proud of our community of researchers who have been very quick to respond to the crisis, using their kit, skills and talent to support the NHS and the Covid-19 response.

“Our mission is so important to people all over the UK and by helping the global effort of tackling Covid-19, we hope we can get back to beating cancer as soon as possible.”