EARLIER this month the Scottish Medicines Consortium announced that olaparib, a treatment that can give valuable time back to patients with advanced ovarian cancer, has been approved in Scotland as a first-line maintenance treatment.

This fantastic news comes 25 years after Worldwide Cancer Research funded professor Steve Jackson’s research into the molecular tools that cells use to repair damaged DNA. This innovative project eventually led to the development of the drug we now call olaparib.

At Worldwide Cancer Research we recently marked our 40th anniversary and, as with any milestone, we celebrated by looking back on our achievements over the past four decades.

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In many ways, there is real cause for celebration. Thanks to the development of breakthrough treatments like olaparib, in the past 40 years cancer survival rates have doubled. Since 1979, we have provided £191 million to fund 1870 projects in 32 different countries across the world.

This year, at our annual Big Ideas Gathering, 24 of the world’s leading cancer researchers helped us allocate a further £4m to the projects they believe will have the greatest impact on the lives of people with cancer.

And yet, despite this success, funding remains an ongoing challenge. With an average research project costing around £200,000, the panel could only select 20 of the 130 projects that were on the table. That means that 110 projects, 110 potential new cancer treatments or drugs, could be lost.

As Scotland’s only cancer research charity, and one of the few cancer research charities in the UK to fund research into any type of cancer, we know it’s crucial that scientists are given the time and the funds needed to understand and treat this complex and evolving disease.

Cancer remains the world’s second-biggest killer, with one person dying of cancer every four seconds worldwide – and 32,200 people diagnosed every year in Scotland alone. While some cancers have seen vast improvements in survival rates over the years, others have seen little or no change.

Brain, lung and pancreatic cancer still have some of the worst survival rates, and research is the only way to close the gap.

Approximately 784 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year in Scotland and, with only 1% of those diagnosed surviving 10 years or more, it has the lowest survival rate of the 29 most common cancers. It is often diagnosed late, making it much more challenging to treat.

Cancer is a global problem – that’s why we fund the brightest cancer researchers around the world to kick-start cancer cures. We’re currently funding Dr Patricia Sancho and her team in Spain with support from FC-AECC. Their aim is to uncover the biological mechanisms that make pancreatic cancer so aggressive. Sancho is trying to understand how cancer cells use fat to survive, thrive and spread – an essential step towards identifying new potential drug targets that could be used to develop much-needed therapies for this very aggressive form of cancer.

Right now we have 70 active projects ongoing, on topics ranging from how cells repair DNA to new immunotherapy techniques. And in order to be able to support even more of these projects, we urgently need to raise more funds.

That is why we launched The First Step campaign this November, and people living in Edinburgh and Glasgow will have seen our series of specially designed steps appear across busy 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.

One day, cancer will no longer be feared. But we can’t do it alone and the more research we can fund, the sooner that day will come.