Select Committee on Science and Technology First Report


50. The Charity Commission's figures from December 2001 revealed that there are now 814 cancer charities in the UK.[106] The two largest charities were the Cancer Research Campaign (CRC) and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF). They began life as a single charity in 1902, as the Cancer Research Fund, and acquired the Imperial epithet when Edward VII became its patron in 1904. In 1923, a group of scientists broke away, disturbed at the lack of clinical application of the research work done. The new group eventually became the Cancer Research Campaign. The ICRF spent £65.8m on research in 2000-01, and another £13m on research expansion. It had 2,367 staff, including its in-house scientists and 45 laboratories. The CRC spent £66m on research in 2000-01. It had 936 staff and funds a further 1,700 scientists, through programme and project grants. In December 2001, the charities announced that they were to merge, to become Cancer Research UK. The new charity became operational on 4 February 2002. Professor Andrew Miller has become Interim Chief Executive of the new charity in order to oversee the merger, and the two Directors-General remain in post. Professor Miller told us "my job is to be the merging mechanic, integration engineer, to help assist with the merger at a technical level".[107]

51. Our predecessor Committee questioned the two charities on the prospects of a merger in May 2000. When the Committee asked Sir Paul Nurse, Director General of ICRF, whether the two charities would merge, he had replied "I think if ICRF and CRC had to raise money together then it is a little like the problem of whether you would sell more Omo or Daz if you had a single product called Dazmo. I suspect not".[108] We asked him what had changed in the last two years. He replied "we did a lot of work testing to see how much we were at risk and the truth is we are at some risk. It is possible that putting the two together will cause a drop in income. However, the general response to our research, which was extensive, and the advice that we took from outside bodies as well was there was a reasonable chance that, in fact, our income might increase and certainly the received wisdom was that it was unlikely to fall".[109] Professor McVie further reassured the Committee: "any market research that we have done has shown there are three names out there: Imperial Cancer Research Fund, Cancer Research Campaign and the most dear to people's hearts is Cancer Research, which is a charity which does not exist. We hope that we will osmose and assemble all the people out there who thought we were there all along".[110]

52. Professor Miller told us the new charity would focus on both clinical research and trials and moving "from targets that become evident from basic research and take that into the clinical".[111] Professor McVie explained that, out of all the reasons for the merger, "the most important was the science. There was no shadow of a doubt that the timing of the human genome project, its unveiling of the potential to find every single cancer gene, was irresistible. We found when doing an audit of each other's technologies, each other's human resources, that we had a good fit".[112]

53. We note also that Cancerlink and Macmillan Cancer Relief have merged in the last year. Professor McVie told us that he hoped that the creation of Cancer Research UK would inspire other smaller charities to follow suit. He explained that "the general public are seriously confused with this rash of charities out there",[113] and told us "we have stated an intention to act as an umbrella for any other blue-chip like-minded cancer research charity, not necessarily to merge but certainly to associate".[114] We welcome the merger of the Cancer Research Campaign and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and expect the new charity, Cancer Research UK, to prove an even stronger champion of UK cancer research. We hope other cancer charities see their example as a positive one to follow, and that more mergers and consolidations of cancer research organisations will follow.

106   Qs 94-95 Back

107   Q 104 Back

108   HC 332-ii, Q 330 Back

109   Q 89 Back

110   Q 93 Back

111   Q 107 Back

112   Q 91 Back

113   Q 95 Back

114   Q 94 Back

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Prepared 20 March 2002