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We have now launched our new ICR strategy: Defeating cancer, for 2022-27. This page relates to our previous strategy for 2016-21.

Making the discoveries: Our strategy to defeat cancer

Our joint research strategy with The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust 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 the biggest killer in the UK, claiming more than 160,000 lives every year.  

Cancer is so difficult to treat because it is enormously complex, and adapts and evolves in response to changes in its environment – becoming resistant to treatment.

But we have a plan. The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust are together focusing our efforts on confronting this major challenge – by overcoming cancer’s ability to adapt and evolve. 

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

We designed the strategy to run from 2016 to 2021, and have now extended it for a year while our new Chief Executive, Professor Kristian Helin, leads in shaping the next stages in our scientific journey. 

Our joint research strategy sets out clear steps to defeat cancer, designed to maximise the benefits for patients and their families. We have structured our strategy around four pillars.


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.