Each year, 10 million people are diagnosed with cancer around the world, and over 6 million people die from cancer.  In 2003, cancer overtook heart disease as the leading cause of death in both men and women in the UK.

As the population ages, the incidence of many cancers is increasing.  The number of people living with cancer also continues to increase.  This is because of improvements in treatments, which prolong people’s lives, and because some cancers are being detected earlier, as a result of screening.

There have been some major advances in the treatment of cancer in the past 20 years.  However, in most cases advances in treatment and detection are modest.  In this situation, randomised clinical trials are very important. 

The main objectives of the MRC Clinical Trials Unit Cancer Group are to

  • Plan, run, analyse and publish clinical trials of national and international importance
  • Develop all aspects of clinical trial and meta-analysis methodology
  • Advance the design, conduct, analysis and reporting of clinical trials research

The majority of the Cancer Group's work involves the design, conduct and analysis of clinical trials, covering many different types of cancer.  We have approximately 10 open trials at any one time, and most of our trials are large randomised controlled trials, which compare two or more treatments.  Treatments being compared include chemotherapy, radiotherapy, biological agents, surgery or combinations of these. 

In some trials, we also test non-therapeutic approaches such as different follow-up policies.

Our trials aim to compare treatments by looking at survival, recurrence, side effects and quality of life.