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Impact Of COVID-19 On Cancer Research

We all know that cancer research is vital to the future of those to be diagnosed with cancer in the years ahead. At the same time, we hope that research taking place now may actually help those of us who are currently living with cancer.

Devastating impact

Research charities here in the UK have been devastated by the impact of COVID-19, as fundraising has basically ground to a halt.

Cancer Research UK funds nearly 50% of the cancer research infrastructure in the UK, but its income streams have been decimated.1 The charity has said it expects to have a £150m cut in research funding.2

This is a catastrophic blow for an organization that has the sole mission of beating cancer, ensuring that fewer people are diagnosed, and providing the best treatments for those who are. The drop in funding will potentially result in the closure of some research facilities and could leave thousands of early-career scientists unsupported.

Losing vital and timely resources

Closer to home, as far as prostate cancer is concerned, Prostate Cancer UK is the leading UK charity supporting men and their families and supporting research into prostate cancer diagnosis, the most important of which is the development of a screening test, and treatment.

This charity's income was projected to fall in 2020 as a direct result of fundraising events being put on hold.3 This means that the charity's activities have been cut and, in particular, the production of printed health information packs to support men and their families and the education of health care professionals.

This latter point may not seem very important. However, general practitioners cannot be up to date with all the ailments that they treat, and many of them still think of PSA testing as “worthless” and “causing more harm than good." But that’s because they still think of PSA testing as a diagnostic tool when it isn’t.

They are also not up to date with current diagnostic pathways that reduce the risk of overtreatment by using mpMRI scans as a vital part of that pathway. PCUK works hard on making sure that GPs and other HCPs are up to date, and this is vital work that is now on hold.

Less support for men with prostate cancer

In addition, PCUK has had to defer new research programs and vital fundraising events. They’ve also had to cut from employment costs and roles in the organization.1

The impact on charities in the UK, which I am sure will be mirrored in the USA, is that men can’t be supported as well as in the past. The cut in research funding could lead to fewer lives being saved down the line in the years ahead.

Bridging the gap

The overall impact for medical research charities in the UK was expected to be a reduced research investment of £310m in 2020.4 How do we bridge that gap and maintain research investment in 2020 and over the next 3-5 years?

In the UK, the medical research charities have asked the government to provide matched funding for a Life Sciences-Charity Partnership over the next 3-5 years, starting with an initial investment of £310m in the first year.5

Through campaign ambassadors like myself, CRUK are able to communicate with all our members of Parliament and seek their support. I’m delighted to say that my MP has agreed to support the campaign.

Finding support

I’d be very interested to learn what is happening in the USA along these lines and whether this article helps in any way.

What is clear is that without support of our respective governments, we face a very difficult and challenging short-term future. It's something that could set back cancer research by years, resulting in more cancer deaths than necessary. This is something that we must all work hard to prevent.

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