Select Committee on Science and Technology First Report


58. There has been real progress in the field of cancer research since the Committee's Report was published in July 2000. The NHS Cancer Plan is the first attempt ever made to create a comprehensive strategy for cancer services and research in the UK. Some measurable targets have been achieved and even exceeded and we congratulate the Government for its efforts in these areas. The structures which have been established are all at an early stage, but we are pleased to see the efforts being made to set up defined functional networks to improve cancer research and services. The National Cancer Research Institute represents a great step forward in the creation of proper collaboration between government, charities and industry, which we consider can only lead to an improvement in the way that research is carried out and funded in the UK. We recognise that the National Cancer Research Network is still rolling out in the regions, and therefore cannot be evaluated to any useful degree yet, but we welcome the NCRN's aim of doubling the number of patients enrolled in clinical trials within three years. The first eight centres to be funded by the National Translational Cancer Research Network were announced in January 2002, and we look forward to finding out what progress they make in improving the somewhat dismal record of translational research in the UK.

59. On the other hand we have found the Department of Health unhelpful in the information it has provided to us throughout the course of our inquiry. The figures and details we have been sent have been scant or outline. Most of the spending totals we received have not been broken down or explained. We remain unconvinced that the Government is matching charitable funding of cancer research, and we are concerned at the apparent lack of government knowledge regarding the deployment of Cancer Plan funds by the NHS Trusts. We have been surprised at the lack of urgency on the part of the Government in resolving the confused situation regarding cancer registration. The damage done to cancer research in the UK following this delay is real, with scientific projects delayed, stopped or abandoned. We look to the Government to address the concerns raised in this Report with urgency.

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Prepared 20 March 2002