Funded research

At Macmillan we continuously seek to build our knowledge and understanding of the needs and experiences of people affected by cancer. As the number of people living with and beyond cancer increases, this research is critical for informing health and social care system design.

We fund a diverse portfolio of academic research, from longitudinal cohort to data linkage studies in a range of environments, from clinical to academic.

We collaborate across sectoral boundaries with our research partners to maximise research impact, disseminate findings, and identify shared challenges, opportunities and interest. 

Read more about the research projects we've funded.

The Macmillan Research Grants Scheme

Interested in applying for funding?

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2018 Call

In 2018, we invited outline proposals in the following areas:

  • The impact of new cancer treatments (such as immunotherapy, personalised medicine and modern radiotherapy techniques) on the lives of people with cancer
  • How to effectively get information about diagnosis and prognosis to people living with cancer, so they can make the right decisions about their life, treatment and care
  • Identifying, understanding and addressing inequalities in experience and outcomes following a cancer diagnosis.

After a rigorous review process, drawing on the expertise of researchers and people affected by cancer, the following grants were selected for funding:

Treatment in a new era of molecular and personalised medicine: Understanding and anticipating the social consequences for people affected by brain cancer

Lead Researchers: Paul Higgs, Henry Llewellyn

University College London

Primary brain tumours are rare, but life-threatening. Most are cancerous, and, of these, most are glioblastoma – an aggressive tumour with an extremely poor prognosis. Very few treatments are available.

New medical technologies might offer a new hope. Cancer doctors are now using ‘molecular biomarkers’ to distinguish between types of tumours. A biomarker, or ‘biological marker’, is an indicator of a disease process which can be measured. It might be changes in a gene, or a molecule produced by the tumour.

Doctors are now using biomarkers to predict which patients will respond to certain treatments. This is called ‘personalised medicine’ and is described as a move beyond a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

Although extremely promising, these approaches also seriously challenge routine care and provoke major dilemmas around individual and population-wide treatment decisions, equity of access and the social arrangements of care. We must urgently understand this new moment in cancer care.

Our multi-sited ethnographic research project will provide unique knowledge on the social, ethical and political consequences of major new innovations in brain cancer – especially molecular and personalised medicine.

The project will produce a wealth of empirical findings, theoretical insights and applications to support cancer communities anticipate and navigate the many challenges that are ahead.

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Experiences of cancer immunotherapy with immune checkpoint inhibitors: insights from people affected by cancer and oncology healthcare professionals in South Wales (ExClm)

Lead Researcher: Tessa Watts

Cardiff University

Cancer immunotherapy is a new treatment approach that uses the power of the body’s immune system to treat certain types of cancer. We still know very little about this treatment and people’s supportive care needs in the context of their everyday lives.

Our knowledge about the experiences and education needs of the nurses and doctors providing care and support for people receiving immunotherapies is also limited. Using in-depth individual interviews with people having immunotherapy treatments, their nurses and junior doctors, this study will start to bridge these gaps.

This study is important, as the use of these drugs will expand as research continues and approval for their use within the National Health Service grows. It will help healthcare professionals to become more aware of the needs of people having this form of cancer treatment. It will also serve as a platform on which to build further research on a larger scale.

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Targeted therapies for cancer: understanding patient experiences and assessing unmet needs

Lead Researchers: Linda Sharp, Adam Todd

Newcastle University

The way we treat cancer is changing. Improved understanding of how cancer develops means many new treatments now ‘target’ cancer cells in the body. These new treatments, known as targeted therapies, work in different ways to chemotherapy.

Unfortunately, as targeted therapy is so new, little is known about how people experience treatment and what their individual needs are during or after treatment.

We do know that many patients receiving chemotherapy need support in various areas (such as emotionally, practically or spiritually) and these needs are often not met. Given the differences between chemotherapy and targeted therapy, we cannot simply assume people’s needs will be the same.

In this project, we plan to assess, for the first time, the experiences and unmet needs of people who use targeted therapy. We will include people with breast, lung, colorectal or ovarian cancer who are receiving, or have received, targeted therapy as part of their treatment.

Finding out how people experience their treatment, understanding their needs, and working out how to assess unmet needs, is essential if we want to be able to best support people.

This work has real potential to benefit patients by changing the way we support people who are receiving targeted therapies.

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Our active research portfolio

Cancer Together with other Chronic Health Conditions: understanding population characteristics and healthcare resource use in general practice (CATCH)

Duration: 9 months

Lead Researcher: Michelle Collinson

University of Leeds

Many people with cancer have other long term health conditions such as asthma or diabetes but we know very little about how having another condition impacts on people living with cancer.

The main aims of this research are to:

  • describe the group of people who have both cancer and other conditions
  • find out how often these people visit GPs or other health services compared to people with cancer alone.

Using anonymised data from GP surgeries, we will find out what other conditions people with cancer have and which patients are more or less likely to visit GPs or other health services.

This will help GPs and health services to become more aware of these patients and their needs and allow us to make suggestions to inform primary care and future research.

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Early palliative care in primary care for people starting palliative chemotherapy: a feasibility randomised controlled study.

Duration: 24 months

Lead Researcher: Kirsty Boyd

University of Edinburgh (NHS Lothian, Edinburgh)

Palliative care is usually given towards the end of life but research shows that most people could benefit from well planned support much earlier.

In this research study, some patients starting treatment for serious cancers of the stomach or gullet will be given a special letter from their oncologist suggesting they make an early appointment with their GP. Their GP will get the letter too and will be asked to offer early palliative care focusing on care planning to these patients.

The study will compare these patients' experiences and quality of life with a similar group of patients receiving the current type of care.

We will do this by asking patients, family carers and GPs to complete questionnaires and talk about their experiences in interviews. We will also monitor all the services the patients use, including time spent in hospital.

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Developing and pilot testing an evidence-based psychological intervention to enhance wellbeing and aid transition into palliative care

Duration: 12 Months

Lead Researcher: Nicholas Hulbert-Williams and Brooke Swash

University of Chester

Finding out your cancer is incurable can be incredibly difficult. The transition into palliative care can be accompanied by a range of emotions: fear, uncertainty, and the struggle to keep moving forward when the future is unclear.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a type of psychological therapy that can help people:

  • cope with uncertainty
  • identify what is really important to them
  • live a life of quality and value.

We aim to develop a short ACT-based intervention to support people when they move into palliative care and to explore the feasibility of providing this intervention to people with a terminal diagnosis through hospices.

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Supported self-management in people living with cancer that cannot be cured: understanding and characterising its value and role

Duration: 36 Months

Lead Researcher: Lynn Calman

University of Southampton

Supporting people to self-manage health-related problems has been shown to improve wellbeing and quality of life, increase understanding of health conditions and lead to more efficient use of health services.

However, there is little evidence to tell us the best way to support the self-management of people living with incurable cancer.

Advances in treatment mean more people are living longer with incurable cancer so it is important to look at new ways of supporting them.

This study will help us better understand the experiences and perspectives of people affected by cancer that cannot be cured (patients and carers). It will also help healthcare professionals produce evidence and insights to inform practice recommendations.

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Systematic review of effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of digital supportive interventions for people with cancer that cannot be cured

Duration: 18 months

Lead Researchers: Anne-Marie Bagnall and Laura Ashley

Leeds Beckett University

Digital technology is being used more frequently to support people living with cancer that cannot be cured and has the potential to improve their quality of life. However, there may also be drawbacks to using these approaches. 

We plan to draw together all the research studies that have been done so far, using a scientific technique called a systematic review, to give a full picture of the effects of digital technology in this group of cancer patients.

We will be talking to people affected by cancer that cannot be cured to make sure that we are looking for the most useful outcomes, and to help us make sense of what we find.

We anticipate that the knowledge generated by this review will have widespread and lasting applicability to large numbers of patients and we will work with Macmillan and existing patient and professional groups to maximise the impact of the review findings.

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SafeSpace: a calming, healing virtual reality environment

Duration: 12 months

Lead Researcher: Theresa Wiseman

The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and University of Southampton

The aim of the research is to develop and test a virtual reality experience – using a readily available low cost headset and smartphone – which will enable people living with cancer to experience a rapid reduction in stress and improved feelings of wellbeing.

People living with cancer will be able to access a series of guided exercises to help them cope with cancer and treatment.

Using a co-design methodology, the team will involve people affected by cancer in order to design a fit-for purpose product and know when and how to use it.

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Living well with oesophageal cancer

Duration: 12 Months

Lead Researcher: Henry Goodfellow

University College London

The goal of the project is to create a prototype website and smart phone app to help patients with oesophageal (gullet) cancer.

The website will be used by healthcare staff looking after oesophageal cancer patients to monitor their progress and share patient information between hospitals.

The smart phone app will provide personalised support information to patients and their carers in the comfort of their own homes.

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The impact of cancer, co-morbidities and late effects on individuals and the health service

Dr Geoff Hall and Professor Adam Glaser

University of Leeds and the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

This study seeks to examine clinical outcomes (including both overall and recurrence-free survival) through the use of routinely collected healthcare data. The data is contained within comprehensive electronic patient records from both secondary and primary care, in unselected groups of cancer patients. The study has ethical approval and aims to securely link non-identifiable information from general practice, community (primary care) and hospital electronic records.

The results of this study will provide a detailed picture of what happens to cancer patients across their cancer pathway, and the costs involved in their care. It will particularly focus on the impact of co-morbidity at diagnosis and the development of late effects following treatment. The programme will provide comprehensive intelligence applicable to the UK on cancer recurrence and consequences of the cancer and its treatment, to further inform health and social care and to support evidence-based decision-making.

The study began in October 2015 and will run for three years.

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CREW Study (ColoREctal Wellbeing)

Macmillan Survivorship Research Group at University of Southampton

Lead Investigator: Professor Claire Foster

The ColoREctal Wellbeing (CREW) study began in 2010 and is a core project of the Macmillan Survivorship Research Group (MSRG) based at the University of Southampton.

CREW is a prospective, longitudinal cohort study designed to determine what happens to people’s health and well-being in the years following colorectal cancer treatment. The study provides the opportunity to identify which people are at most at risk of experiencing problems, to assess how quickly people return to a state of subjective health and well-being, and to measure factors which influence the course of recovery.

Over 1,000 participants were recruited to the study from 28 centres throughout Great Britain and large numbers of those participants continue to complete questionnaires and contribute data to the study five years after initial recruitment.

Emerging findings from CREW have already helped to shed light on the role that social support, confidence to manage illness-related problems and other non-medical factors play in cancer recovery.

From February 2016 CREW will be directly fed into the HORIZONS programme. The CREW study is set to conclude by December 2017.

For further information visit our MSRG page.

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Evaluation of Patient-Reported Outcome (PRO) Protocol Content and Reporting in UK Cancer Clinical Trials (EPiC)

Dr Derek Kyte and Professor Melanie Calvert

University of Birmingham

In a number of clinical trials, patient-reported outcomes are being increasingly used to provide the patient perspective on physical, functional and psychological consequences of treatment as well as the impact of cancer. Patient-reported outcomes, such as quality of life, are important to cancer patients as they can help patients feel more empowered in their treatment decisions. However, despite their importance, patient-reported outcomes are not always included in trial publications.

This research aims to:

  • Determine the rate of PRO reporting in UK cancer trials.
  • Model factors associated with PRO protocol quality and PRO reporting quality/rates.
  • Explore barriers or enablers to optimal PRO protocol content and reporting.

The study findings will be used to develop a novel freely-accessible online training resource for cancer researchers aimed at disseminating best methodological practice in PRO cancer trial design, conduct and reporting.

Findings from this study will be available in late 2018.

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An investigation into the prevalence, impact and experience of fatigue in teenagers and young adults with cancer

Dr. Stephen Barclay and Dr. Anna Spathis, University of Cambridge

Fatigue is one of the most common and distressing symptoms experienced by people with cancer, including teenagers and young adults. In recent years, teenagers and young adults with cancer have been increasingly recognised as having unique needs that differ from those of adults and children. This study seeks to understand the prevalence and impact of cancer-related fatigue on teenagers and young adults, to design an effective intervention.

The study consists of three stages:

  • a systematic review of cancer-related fatigue in teenagers and young adults
  • an electronic survey evaluating the prevalence and impact of cancer-related fatigue in teenagers and young adults
  • development of a co-designed, non-pharmaceutical intervention

Findings from this study will be available in December 2017.

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HORIZONS

Macmillan Survivorship Research Group at University of Southampton

Lead Investigator: Professor Claire Foster

HORIZONS (2016-2020) is a programme of research funded by Macmillan that builds on the work started with CREW. The HORIZONS programme aims to establish a series of representative cohorts including thousands of adults diagnosed with a range of cancers across the UK before their treatment begin. Three cohorts will be established comprising people diagnosed with young-onset breast cancer (those diagnosed at age 50 or below), gynaecological cancers or non-Hodgkin lymphoma (initially the diffuse large B-cell subtype).

Key research objectives of the programme include:

  • Mapping health outcomes, experiences and self-management over the life-course and the factors that influence these
  • Mapping the impact of cancer and its consequences on people diagnosed with cancer before and after treatment and over their lifetime
  • Informing policy and practice based innovative solutions to minimise the health burden and maximise support available to them over their life-course

The HORIZONS programme will be a national and international resource that will enable the exploration of consequences of different cancer diagnoses and treatments from the individual perspective across the life-course.

For more information about the HORIZONS programme please contact the Macmillan Survivorship Research Group or our Research Lead, Nic Lee.

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What explains cancer costs in England?

Dr Mauro Laudicella, City University London

This programme of research seeks to examine the magnitude and variations of cancer costs across different stages of the disease, geographical areas and pathways of care. It does this through the creation of a new data set that enables analysis of direct hospital costs and economic costs of four of the most common types of cancer in England: breast, colorectal, prostate and lung cancer. The data includes 1.2 million patients in English cancer registries from 1 January 2010 until 31 December 2011.

The analysis focuses on understanding the following areas:

  • the hospital cost (direct cost) and the economic cost of cancer in England
  • the effect of routes to diagnosis on life-time costs
  • the cost of emergency admissions of patients with cancer.

This study began in January 2014 and is due to be completed in December 2017.

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