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


Memorandum submitted by Breakthrough Breast Cancer

  Breakthrough remains convinced that the way forward for cancer research in the UK is for the Government to create an independent national organisation to develop a co-ordinated programme of cancer control, including laboratory and clinical research. Furthermore, Government funding for cancer research, particularly into causes and prevention, needs to be significantly increased beyond current levels.

  Breakthrough therefore welcomes the establishment of the new National Cancer Research Institute as a step in the right direction. We look forward to playing our full part as a member of the Institute.

  The Institute is very much in its infancy and it is therefore difficult at this stage to comment on how effective it has been, or is likely to be. In general terms, Breakthrough is encouraged by early indications—we are impressed, for example, with the enthusiasm shown by the Institute's Director, Liam O'Toole. However, it is at present unclear exactly what the Institute is doing, what it will aim to achieve in future and how it will measure its successes. Breakthrough believes it would be helpful for the Institute to devise performance indicators by which it would like its future progress to be assessed. In addition, we suggest it would be helpful for the Committee to review the Institute's progress a year from now.

  Several stakeholders have previously expressed concern about cancer registration and its implications for data protection; Breakthrough shares those concerns. In particular we are concerned that the need to gain permission to hold personal data is having a negative impact on official cancer mortality rates. There may be a case to be made for not extending the provisions of the Data Protection Act to cancer registration, particularly if the ability to conduct prevention studies is undermined.

  Turning to the issue of Government funding of cancer research, it is clear that there is scope to increase the amount of cancer research funded directly by the Government. Charities remain the largest funders of cancer research in this country. The Government's stated commitment to matching voluntary sector funding, whilst welcome, requires further clarification as there are still questions about what constitutes or is defined by "cancer research". It may be that a proportion of the money intended for cancer research is in fact being swallowed up elsewhere.

  On a related point, there is evidence that in some cases hypothecated funding for cancer is not reaching the intended recipients ie Cancer Networks. Breakthrough would welcome assurances from Government that this will not be the case again next year.

Delyth Morgan

Chief Executive

6 December 2001

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