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Brexit and cancer research

Science Update Blog

Cancer Research UK

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Brexit_shutterstock_458819806.jpgThere has been plenty of talk about Brexit, the UK’s impending departure from the EU. Once the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, kick starts the process of renegotiating the UK’s relationship with the EU, there’ll be two years of back and forth in Brussels while the deal is ironed out.

We’ll be following progress closely and seeking to input our expertise on the issues we care most about.

Our ambition is to accelerate progress and see three in four cancer patients survive their disease by 2034. Research is at the heart of our plan to realise this ambition. The UK’s membership to the EU meant various things for Cancer Research UK and the broader UK cancer research community. So, we’re keen to ensure that cancer patients in the UK and beyond are prominent on the agenda as the discussions unfold.

Here are some of the areas we’ll be looking at:

Researcher mobility

Lots of scientists come to the UK from Europe and the rest of the world to study and work. It’s the mix of UK, European and international researchers pitching in together and sharing ideas that helps keep UK science strong.

Today, being part of the EU makes it much easier for EU researchers to travel to the UK than researchers from other places in the world, meaning far more European researchers chose to come here. If, once EU membership is over, researchers from the EU have limits on their right to work, we could start to see fewer talented researchers from the EU’s remaining member countries working in the UK.

And empty desks at the lab and in the clinic could be bad news, weakening UK science overall and making it harder for us to keep making the discoveries that benefit patients in the UK, in Europe and the world over.

To safeguard research, and ultimately improvements in health from that research, we’ll be working to ensure continued flexibility for talented researchers who wish to travel to the UK.

Funding for cancer research

Cancer Research UK doesn’t receive government funding for our research – and that includes money from the EU. That said, the money we invest in research forms part of a broader science funding landscape – Cancer Research UK researchers might also receive funding from one or several other funders. One of these crucial funders is the European Union. And, as everyone who supports us knows, funding is the lifeblood of the research breakthroughs that ultimately benefit patients.

So we’ll be looking for reassurance that, whatever happens, an end to EU membership doesn’t leave medical research out of pocket.

Safeguarding the European research environment

Some EU laws govern how research is conducted across Europe – vital for international collaborations like clinical trials or studies into the causes of cancer. A level-playing field of harmonised laws makes collaboration across countries easier, as everyone’s singing from the same hymn sheet in terms of rules and regulations.

And, as the answers to cancer’s challenges becomes even more of a global challenge, we’ll need more collaboration with partners in other countries in the years to come, not less. So we’ll be asking the Government to really take note of the value of some of these laws and we’ll advocate that in some important cases, such as clinical trials, the UK sticks to the EU legal framework even after EU membership has expired.

Rapidly changing situation

There’s plenty for us to be thinking about over the next few months as the negotiations begin and we assess the full extent of the opportunities and challenges of the post-EU world. We’ll keep you updated.

Also read: 

  • Cancer Research UK's response to the Government’s Science and Technology Committee ahead of Brexit 
  • Cancer Research UK's response to the House of Lords ahead of Brexit


Author: Catherine Guinard, Cancer Research UK team.
Source: Cancer Research UK - Science Blog
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Cancer Research UK

The Science Update Blog covers the latest in cancer research - including that funded by Cancer Research UK - and examines the evidence behind the myths and the scares we come across almost every day in the media. Aimed at a general audience, it also helps doctors stay ahead of the game by uncovering the truth behind the headlines on cancer. OnMedica publishes a selection of the Cancer Research UK Science Blog postings. For the full update, visit http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/
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