Worldwide Cancer Research marks 40th anniversary with First Step campaign

Worldwide Cancer Research is celebrating its 40th anniversary this month. Since being founded in 1979 the charity has funded 1,870 projects across the world, worth over £191 million.

To mark this milestone the charity is launching a bold new look and campaign to raise awareness of the vital research it funds and help drive donations.

The First Step campaign will highlight the charity’s commitment to funding the very earliest research and launches this week. A series of specially designed ‘first steps’ will appear across some of Edinburgh and Glasgow’s busiest streets and shopping centres, encouraging people to take their own first step in helping to find the cures for cancer by donating to the charity.

The campaign was launched by STV presenter and Worldwide Cancer Research ambassador Laura Boyd, who was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2009.

David Sole, Chair of the Board for Worldwide Cancer Research, who joined Laura Boyd to launch The First Step campaign, said:

“There is so much support for later-stage cancer research that very often the first breakthroughs are forgotten or ignored. The First Step remains as critical as ever, and this is where Worldwide Cancer Research plays such a crucial role.”

This campaign coincides with the charity’s annual ‘Bold Ideas Gathering’, which sees the world’s top cancer researchers arrive in Edinburgh to discuss how to invest the money raised through fundraising and generous public donations. This year the charity has £4 million to spend on pioneering cancer research projects.

At the meeting, the group will go through the ideas put forward by scientists from all over the world to identify the projects that they believe will have the greatest impact on the lives of people with cancer. With an average research project costing around £200,000, the panel will have to select around 20 from 130 projects. That means there will be 110 projects, and 110 possible cures, lost.

This year’s applications are from researchers based in 24 different countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Italy, Malaysia and Scotland, and cover topics ranging from how cells repair DNA to new immunotherapy techniques.

Dr Helen Rippon, Chief Executive of Worldwide Cancer Research, said:

“When Worldwide Cancer Research was founded forty years ago by Dr Colin Thomson, it was with one clear goal: to conquer cancer within his lifetime. Tragically, he died from multiple myeloma. His legacy is our mission – to find and fund life-saving research around the world to end the suffering and death caused by cancer.

“Over those forty years, Worldwide Cancer Research has funded close to 2,000 projects around the world, helping to discover and develop new life-saving treatments. The First Step campaign underlines our belief that providing funding for the brightest new ideas in cancer research is vital to finding treatments and cures for cancer.

“Our ‘Bold Ideas Gathering’ is the most important date in the charity’s calendar. It’s incredibly exciting to think that a research project we decide to fund at this meeting could be the key discovery that unlocks a new drug or treatment for cancer.

“The cancer researchers who take part in the meeting all give up their time to review applications. They do this because they believe wholeheartedly in ensuring that our supporters’ money is used in the most impactful way possible. They truly are heroes in and out of the lab.”

Worldwide Cancer Research is one of the few cancer charities in the UK, and the only one in Scotland, to fund research into all types of cancer. This is because while some cancers have seen vast improvements, others have seen little or no change.

Approximately 784 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year in Scotland, and with only 1% of those diagnosed surviving ten years or more, it has the lowest survival rate of the 29 most common cancers.

Adam Coulson chose to fundraise for Worldwide Cancer Research after the death of his father to pancreatic cancer, and his mother to bowel cancer. He said:

“Cancer has a devastating effect on our lives. I think almost every single one of my family and friends has been affected in some way or another. Sadly, there are some cancers that are simply not understood as well as others, and more research is urgently needed in order to improve treatment outcomes and survival rates. Worldwide Cancer Research funds vital research into those in most urgent need.”

Dr John Maher, Clinical Senior Lecturer at King’s College London and Chair of the meeting said:

“Worldwide Cancer Research is truly unique as the only UK-based charity that funds research into any type of cancer, anywhere in the world. Every year we see so many exciting ideas from some of the world’s most innovative researchers that it is often very difficult to decide which projects deserve funding. It can’t be stressed enough how important the supporters of Worldwide Cancer Research are to make this research possible.”

For more information about Worldwide Cancer Research, visit