Since then, with the importance of cutting smoking rates getting ever clearer, the governments of England, Scotland and Wales have all set out their goal to cut the number of smokers to less than 5% of the population. But these Smokefree targets won’t be met without hard work.
So, last year, we launched our Smokefree UK campaign calling on the UK Government to take action by raising the age of sale of tobacco and providing more funding to help people across the UK quit smoking.
In September, we brought our Smokefree UK petition calling for more funding for stop smoking services and public health campaigns to 10 Downing Street, alongside Campaigns Ambassadors, politicians and partners. Our policy calls were backed by almost 14,000 supporters, more than 50 MPs, councillors and Lords, and over 20 other organisations.
Then at Conservative Party Conference in October, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced plans to raise the age of sale of tobacco, as well as provided increased funding for services and measures to help people quit smoking.
This announcement was not just a big win for Cancer Research UK, but also our incredible partners and supporters who have been campaigning and working alongside us for years.
But our work isn’t done yet, we’ll continue to press for more action to ensure that the Prime Minister’s plans to raise the age of sale of tobacco become a reality so that we can tackle the number one cause of cancer and save more lives.
3 – Investing in the lung cancer research community
Our 2014 research strategy made lung cancer a priority. Despite it being the most common cause of cancer death in the UK, there was limited lung cancer-specific research taking place around the country.
Since then, we have increased our research spend in the area, investing in the people and ideas capable of radically changing the way we think about lung cancer.
We committed over £10m to fund TRACERx – our flagship lung cancer research study, which aimed to track the evolution of individual people’s lung cancers over time.
Some of the most important developments on this list came thanks to TRACERx. Now we’re building on them. Last year, we announced TRACERx EVO, which will continue to accelerate progress against lung cancer for many years to come.
The next stage of our 2014 strategy was to create a collaborative environment where lung cancer research can flourish. It led to our Lung Cancer Centre of Excellence, which brings together the world-leading lung cancer researchers at the University of Manchester and University College London. It’s a way of ensuring the unique and complementary strengths of the two organisations can have the biggest impact possible – and the research it makes possible helps attract scientific talent from around the world.
We have also invested in numerous other projects, including the National Lung Matrix Trial – our pioneering collaboration with pharmaceutical companies and the NHS to test the idea that genetic changes in people’s cancers could be used to match them to treatments.
As well as catalysing numerous breakthroughs in lung cancer research, these investments have been instrumental in building a community of researchers and clinicians around the UK – supporting early-stage researchers and clinicians to begin their careers in the field and encouraging established experts to turn their attention to the challenges of lung cancer.
4 – Contributing to drug treatments
Our research has contributed to the development of some of the drugs that have had the biggest impact on treating lung cancer, including cisplatin, carboplatin, pemetrexed and etoposide.
In the early 1970s a team of our researchers in London confirmed that the platinum-containing molecule now known as cisplatin was effective against cancer in laboratory models, and also identified exactly which parts of the molecule made it so effective.
Another one of our researchers, Dr Eve Wiltshaw at the Royal Marsden Hospital, led the clinical trials of cisplatin, giving the drug to patients for the first time in the UK.
Over subsequent years, cisplatin produced impressive results in patients with several different cancer types. It continues to be used for the treatment of some cancers today, including lung cancer.