Select Committee on Science and Technology Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the British Association for Cancer Research

    —  There has been a generally positive response from researchers to the research elements of the NHS Cancer Plan, although it is too soon to comment on the funding and delivery of these components of the plan. It has also been stressed that health is a devolved power and the Scottish Executive's Cancer Plan lags behind that of the NHS in planning, execution and resource allocation, with research in particular appearing to be a lower and less defined priority in Scotland than in England and Wales.

    —  Progress in developing the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) has been pleasing. The Administrative Director, Dr Liam O'Toole, has been diligent and has made a very good start in consulting researchers around the UK. The fact that NCRI has set up a database, is establishing progress review groups and is intending to examine the problems of clinical academic careers is welcomed. Concern has, however, been expressed by our University-based members that their potential contribution may be under-valued. Because of the breadth of basic research that can be provided in Universities they need to be brought into partnership with the cancer research institutes and the hospitals. This should be recognised in NCRI's plans.

    —  There is concern that UK research and its international standing will be impaired by the effect of data protection legislation on cancer registration. The same applies to the ethical and legal issues surrounding the use of human tissues in research but it is hoped that these constraints will only have a temporary negative impact on research.

    —  The Cancer Research Networks and the funding allocated to them is welcomed but, again, it is pointed out that, although NCRI operates throughout the UK, the National Cancer Research Network (NCRN) and National Translational Cancer Research Network (NTRAC) only apply to England. The Scottish Cancer Therapy Network is at present a pale shadow of NCRN and there is no Scottish equivalent of NTRAC, causing concern to researchers based in Scotland, who fear that more attractive research opportunities south of the Border will erode traditional research strengths with knock-on adverse impacts on training and service delivery. They are further concerned by the fact that your inquiry will be speaking to Mike Richards but not to his Scottish counterpart. As one respondent put it: "the fact that there does not seem to be a coherent UK-wide cancer research strategy with vision, but a number of fragmented bodies, continues to make the UK cancer research community over-reliant on the cancer charities".

  To raise one other point, paragraphs 144 and 154 of "Cancer Research—A Fresh Look" recommend establishing 12 large centres of cancer research excellence. This recommendation does not seem to be on the agenda of current initiatives.

Professor John A Wyke

Chairman, British Association for Cancer Research

4 December 2001

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