Organisation and history

Since Douglas Macmillan founded our charity in 1911, we have grown to be the UK’s leading source of cancer support, helping more and more people affected by cancer, all with your help.

In 1911, a young man named Douglas Macmillan watched his father die of cancer. His father's pain and suffering moved Douglas so much, he founded the 'Society for the Prevention and Relief of Cancer'. 

Douglas wanted advice and information to be provided to all people with cancer, homes for patients at low or no cost, and voluntary nurses to attend to patients in their own homes.

Today much of Douglas' legacy lives on. We are still a source of support for people living with cancer today and we are a force for improving cancer care.

Watch: Macmillan through the ages

Watch: Macmillan through the ages

Macmillan milestones 2010s


  • We marked 40 years since the first Macmillan nurse was appointed.



  • We are once again voted number one in the Charity Brand Index.
  • We launch our award winning 'Not Alone' campaign.


  • Our services reach 5.7 million people – more people than ever before.


  • We celebrate our centenary with a star-studded gala.
  • Our World’s Biggest Coffee Morning raises more than £10 million for the first time, enabling us to help even more people affected by cancer
  • We publish research that shows the number of people living with and beyond cancer will double from 2 million in 2010 to 4 million in 2030.



  • Our integrated phone service launches, allowing people affected by cancer to call just one number for medical, financial, practical and emotional support.
  • The number of Macmillan professionals rises to over 5,000.


  • We merge with Cancerbackup, allowing us to provide high quality, expertly developed information about cancer, and make it available to everyone who needs it.


  • We change our name to Macmillan Cancer Support to help people better understand what we do.


  • We implement our social care strategy, focusing on supporting carers and helping people financially. 


  • Our Macmillan CancerLine is launched, integrating the existing Macmillan Information Line and Cancerlink's information services. 


  • Macmillan merges with Cancerlink, a national charity providing support to people affected by cancer, particularly those in cancer self help and support groups.
  • Our first mobile Macmillan cancer information centre visits 51 sites across England, bringing information and support to more people than ever before.
  • We finish our 100th building project, a day centre at Craigavon in Northern Ireland.


  • We fund our 2,000th Macmillan nurse.



  • Macmillan successfully lobbies The Oxford English Dictionary to change its inaccurate definition of cancer. 


  • We open our new Macmillan National Institute of Education (MNIE), with 10 lecturers for training specialist cancer care professionals. 
  • The Information Line helps more than 11,000 people during its first year of operation.


  • We change our name to 'Macmillan Cancer Relief'.


  • Our 1,000th Macmillan nurse is appointed.


  • We launch the Macmillan Nurse Appeal to raise £20 million.
  • We launch the annual World’s Biggest Coffee Morning. 300,000 people took part raising over £250,000.



  • We change our name to 'Cancer Relief Macmillan Fund'.


  • We appoint our 500th Macmillan nurse.


  • We fund the first Macmillan doctor.


  • We invest £2.5 million to expand Macmillan nursing teams throughout the UK.
  • We launch an educational programme to train doctors, nurses and students in advanced pain control and cancer care.



  • We fund our first Macmillan nurses.
  • We build and equip the first Macmillan cancer care unit.



  • The first local Committee is formed in Bath.


  • The first paid member of staff is appointed.



  • Douglas Macmillan establishes the 'Society for the Prevention and Relief of Cancer', providing information on recognising, preventing and treating cancer to patients, doctors and members of the public.

Our organisation

Macmillan Cancer Support is registered as a charity with the Charity Commission (registered charity number 261017) and as a company limited by guarantee with the Registrar of Companies (registered company number 2400969).

We are governed by our Articles of Association [PDF]

For further information about Macmillan, get in touch with our Head Office or cancer support specialists.