HC Deb 02 May 1984 vol 59 cc173-4W
Mr. Amess

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what amount of Government funding, either directly or indirectly, has been invested in research into the causes and cures of cancer; and what information he has as to how much has been invested by private industry over the last five years.

Mr. Brooke

The Medical Research Council is the main Government agency for the support of research on cancer. In the financial year 1982–83 the council spent approximately £11 million on research directly related to cancer and approximately a further £8 million on work on related topics which could produce findings relevant to the disease. Research into cancer is also carried out in universities and medical schools using funds provided for teaching and research allocated on advice from the University Grants Committee, but I cannot say what the total cost of such research may be. Information is not collected on the amount invested by private industry either directly or through support of the medical research charities.

Mr. Amess

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if there has been any success in the field of research into the causes and cures of cancer over the last five years.

Mr. Brooke

Progress in research on the causes and treatment of cancer, as in many other fields of research, has been characterised by advances on a broad front interspersed with major discoveries and developments. It is not possible to list all significant developments, but I understand from the Medical Research Council that the following are some examples of progress during the last five years.

  1. (i) the introduction of new drugs and combinations of drugs; this has resulted in significant improvements in survival for certain forms of cancer, eg testicular tumors, acute lymphocytic leukaemia in childhood;
  2. (ii)the development of new imaging techniques (x-ray computerised tomography, or whole-body scanning; nuclear magnetic resonance body imaging; positron-emission tomography) that allows tumours to be detected at an early stage, thus increasing the likelihood of successful treatment;
  3. (iii) the use of bone marrow transplantation, in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiotherapy, in the treatment of leukaemia;
  4. (iv) the clinical application of monoclonal antibodies in the diagnosis and evaluation of the extent of disease (eg the use of monoclonal antibodies to carcinoembryonic antigen to detect and monitor colorectal carcinoma);
  5. (v) the discovery of particular genes — the so-called oncogenes — that when activated, lead to the transformation of a normal cell into a cancer cell. Oncogenes have been found in certain instances both in normal cells, where it seems that they are involved in the control of normal cell growth and development, and in cancer cells where in various ways their activity has become abnormal. Knowledge is accumulating rapidly on the mechanisms of control of oncogene expression and the action of their products in the regulation of cell growth, thus furthering our understanding at a molecular level of how and why a normal cell changes into a cancer cell. this work exemplifies the value of the application of fundamental molecular biology to cancer research.

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