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Making the discoveries: Our strategy to defeat cancer

In 2016, the ICR launched a new, five-year joint research strategy with The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust. This focuses on four key areas of research to speed up our progress in defeating cancer.

Video: ICR Chief Executive Paul Workman gives an overview of our research strategy.

Cancer is one of the biggest challenges that we face — it is the biggest killer in the UK, claiming around 160,000 lives every year. But we have a plan.

Our science strategy, Making the discoveries: our strategy to defeat cancer, offers a bold and ambitious vision that will speed up our progress against cancer.

The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust will together focus our efforts on solving the single biggest problem in cancer research.

Cancer is so difficult to treat because it is enormously complex, and as its molecular make-up changes, it can evolve and adapt to changes in its environment — and become resistant to treatment.

Our new joint research strategy sets out clear steps to defeat cancer, by confronting its ability to adapt and evolve.

Our research efforts from 2016 to 2021 will focus on four key areas of research that we know will make a huge difference to cancer patients and their families.


Our research pillars

Unravelling cancer’s complexity

Unlocking the clues to cancer’s survival and finding new weak spots to help us defeat it.

Unravelling cancer

Innovative approaches

Exploiting cancer’s weaknesses in many different ways to find new approaches to treatment

Innovative approaches

Smarter, kinder treatments

Running state-of-the-art trials to test out tailored treatments in patients

Precision treatment

Making it count

Putting our discoveries into action by making sure they transform routine healthcare.

Improving healthcare


Our foundations

Our ambitious research strategy aims to turn scientific discovery and understanding into real benefits for cancer patients. To achieve this we need to put down strong foundations in the way we organise and support our research.

We will:

  • put in place the talented people and critical skills we need to deliver innovative research
  • establish world-class digital infrastructure and research facilities
  • nurture a culture that promotes talent and collaboration
  • forge close partnerships with other organisations.

Each of these foundations supports every aspect of our research across the ICR and The Royal Marsden. Later in the year, we will also be launching a new organisational strategy, which will set out how we will grow our income so we can achieve our ambitions in full.

Read more about our foundations

Download the research strategy

Click below to download a copy of Making the discoveries: our strategy to defeat cancer

Our scientific discoveries

The ICR has an outstanding record of scientific achievement dating back more than 100 years.